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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Kailyn McLaughlin of Stretch Zone goes through a series of stretch protocols with writer J Kibble.

You've heard of assisted living. But what about assisted stretching?

Stretch Zone, a new healthy-living franchise on North Market Street, is part of a growing national chain that is bending the rules of how people stay fit and flexible.

Typically, a customer enters the bright and airy storefront, which opens into a room full of stretching tables, and then immediately connects with a Stretch Zone practitioner. As the Stretch Zone staff member manipulates the customer's body, communication is key.

"OK, that's too far," a customer cautions as her practitioner bends her leg. A little later, "Oh, I think I went deeper that time with that stretch," she affirms, as her hamstrings are stretched.

The two talk about health and fitness goals and the customer (ideally) leaves feeling lighter, more limber and more capable of daily tasks.

Stretch Zone was founded in 2004 by Jorden Gold in Aventura, Florida. Gold said he wanted to help his grandfather who had lost some range of motion due to diabetes. A trainer by occupation, Gold built a table with straps, belts and buckles to stabilize his grandfather as he stretched. Although it later went through a few iterations, this prototype table inspired the system used in Stretch Zone locations today. Meanwhile, Gold has said that his grandfather went from being bedridden to being able to dance at a wedding.

Stretch Zone has at least 35 locations nationwide, including one here on Market Street. Its owners, David Neff and Paul Weatherholt, say they plan to open a second location here later this year.

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Kailyn McLaughlin of Stretch Zone goes through a series of stretch protocols with J Kibble.

The tables, equipped with buckles and straps, help to stabilize a person's body, according to Stretch Zone's website. The restraints allow for a deeper, more stable stretch. Think of your muscles like a car seat belt, the website reads. When you pull against a seat belt, it naturally locks. Repeatedly moving the body in and out of such a point of resistance — the "stretch zone" — creates an increased range of motion.

Stretch Zone is used by a wide variety of clients, the owners say, ranging from young athletes to seasoned competitors, to seniors who need help with everyday tasks such as tying their shoes. Also, patients with neuromuscular conditions such as Parkinson's disease or ALS have benefited from the stretching techniques, the owners say.

One Stretch Zone customer offered this testimonial on the company's website: "Excellent place! [I've] been suffering from sciatica [and] decided to try something different since surgery is not a path I want to explore. I've only been two times but every time I go I have a boost of energy and sciatica pain is less and less."

Want to try it for yourself? Stretch Zone visits cost about $75 each, or less for package plans.

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