Don’t want to exercise but want to feel great? Try stretching!
Doing stretches throughout the day can make your body feel limber and revitalized with minimal effort.
You may be thinking that stretching only has a place before or after a workout, but you’re wrong! Stretching can be its own healthy exercise!Here’s why:
- …increases your body’s flexibility;
- …boosts energy and releases tension;
- …reduces muscle soreness and stiffness;
- …reduces the risk of injury;
- …increases & encourages blood flow/nutrient supply to muscles & cartilage;
- …improves muscle balance around joints, thus improving posture;
- …warms your body up in preparation for an active day;
- …relaxes your body at the end of that active day, enhancing muscle recovery.
Sounds pretty great right? It gets better: stretching is EASY and anyone can do it! It can be effectively done in just minutes. Stretching positions should include each of the major muscle groups and should be held for about 10 seconds to loosen up muscles. Focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. And make sure that you stretch both sides. For example, if you stretch your left shoulder, be sure to stretch your right shoulder as well. You should expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, but not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch. Repeat each stretch three times.
The ultimate goal in stretching is to slowly elongate the muscle. What’s actually happening with each stretch is that the tiny fibers which make up our muscles begin to tear and break, allowing our muscles to get longer than they were before. These little breaks are then repaired during our recovery/rest period and the gaps are bridged with new muscle fibers. As a result, our muscles recover in a “longer” state than before and flexibility is improved. Stretching also expands your blood vessels and makes them more pliable, allowing blood and nutrients to flow through more easily.
It’s very important to maintain flexibility through stretching; especially if you sit most of the day like many of us do. So take a few minutes out of your busy day to stretch and lengthen those tightened, sore muscles. Try out a few quick, easy stretches until you find your favorites and sneak them into your day whenever there is time. Here are 4 easy stretches to get you started:
- Back extension and shoulder-blade pinch
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and gently lean backward to the point of mild tension with your arms also reaching back and squeezed toward each other. Tighten shoulder blades, lower back muscles and hold. Repeat three times.
- Bridge stretch
Interlace your fingers with your palms pointing toward the sky, straighten your elbows and reach as far up as possible with both hands and hold for 10 seconds.
- Forearm and wrist stretches
Extend one arm without bending the elbow. Bend your wrist upward, and use your other hand to gently pull your fingers back toward you and hold for 10 seconds. Release and bend the same wrist downward, gently pulling it down and toward you with the other hand. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat both stretches with your other arm.
- Hamstring stretch
Stand with your feet crossed and gently bend forward at the hips and waist to the point of mild tension. Feel the stretch along the back of your rear leg. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your other leg. Please let us know if there are any stretches that you have questions about! What muscle do you find yourself stretching the most?