There are many misconceptions about stretching. Some people think it’s only necessary for seasoned athletes. Others think stretching is most useful in the realms of dancing and yoga.
The truth is that stretching is vital for everyone. It helps to preserve your mobility and physical independence by keeping your muscles flexible, healthy, and strong. Especially this past year, with so many people working in home offices and getting less physical activity, stretching has become essential.
Overall Benefits of Stretching
Stretching has many benefits, such as increasing your flexibility, which helps you perform physical activities more easily. Stretching also increases your mobility and decreases your risk of getting injured, an even more valuable benefit as you age.
Like exercise and a healthy diet, stretching contributes to positive life changes. Studies have shown that it helps both your body and your brain. It gets the blood flowing through your muscles. After long periods of sitting hunched at a desk, stretching is invigorating. Interestingly, yoga stretches can also help you better regulate your sleep patterns.
Take It Easy
You don’t have to do a 45-minute mobility class to reap the results of a satisfying stretch. All you need is a few minutes each day. Repeat stretches two or three times, holding them for 20 to 60 seconds. If your muscles are cold (such as before you work out), don’t push too far; you could risk injury. Instead, keep it simple. Focus on symmetry in your stretches instead of reaching that extra inch.
Never bounce while you stretch. It’s one of the easiest ways to injure yourself. Let your body guide your routine. It should feel good, not painful.
Stretches You Can Do Daily
Research suggests that it’s ideal to get up and move around for at least three minutes every 30 to 60 minutes. This is an excellent opportunity to do some stretching. Set an alarm in the middle of the day reminding yourself to stand up and go through a short series. Here are some ideas that target problem areas of tight muscle groups. They’re also great mental pick-me-ups.
This stretch is ideal if you spend a lot of time at a desk. Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly tilt from the hips towards the floor, reaching your hands toward your toes. Allow gravity to pull you down until you feel the stretch. Don’t worry about touching your toes if your body isn’t ready.
Instead of walking through a doorway, put your hands on either side of it. Lean forward slightly until you feel the stretch in your upper arms and chest.
Seated spinal twist
Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you. Cross your right leg over the left so the foot is flat on the floor and the knee points upward. Twist towards the leg, resting your elbow on the outside of your knee for a spinal twist. Repeat on the other side.
* With all of these stretches, be sure to consult your doctor first if you have injuries or other musculoskeletal concerns. For the seated spinal twist, keep your spine neutral. Over-flexing in either direction can cause back injury.
Stretching is an excellent—and attainable—way to keep yourself mobile and dynamic, whether post-workout or after sitting for long periods. It also helps manage mental, physical, and even emotional health and can be a gateway to starting an engaging fitness routine. Remember that even a few minutes of stretching each day is all you need to reap long-lasting benefits.