Stretching is quite simple. But, if you’re like me and you don’t like to stretch, you’re not alone. To me, stretching can be boring and a waste of time. It wasn’t until I got in a car accident that I realized how important stretching really was. From the accident, my back muscles were so stiff and constricted that I couldn’t move. I was in a grumpy mood from being in pain and was stressed out because I wasn’t properly sleeping. I went to physical therapy, did massages, acupressure, and it all helped, but I never felt completely back to normal. Stretching helps loosen and elongate tight muscles, encourages the release of endorphins, and improves circulation and performance in physical activities. While the benefits of daily exercise act as our main go-to, regular stretching is just as important. Even if you’re not planning on exercising vigorously, it’s still important to stretch. So why is stretching important? Here’s a few reasons why:
- Improves flexibility and overall joint health – When you stretch, you increase the blood flow and flexibility in your tendons, which connect your muscles to bones. This will help decrease your chances of let’s say what I’m prone to – tennis elbow and patellar tendonitis.
- Less injuries – Incorporating stretching into your warm-up will help your body get ready for exercise. Though it can’t eliminate the chance of injury, a few minutes of active or dynamic stretching, like arm circles, lunges, overhead reaches and walking knee hugs will help prevent injuries.
- Sleep better – Static stretching (or holding a stretch for a period of time) before going to bed can help relieve some tightness and cramping that you may feel during the night. By stretching before bed, it not only relaxes you, but will help release the tension that has built up during your day.
- Strengthens your muscles – Though basic stretching can’t replace your daily workout routine, it can make you naturally stronger. The more flexible your joints and tendons are the higher muscular endurance you’ll have. This can improve your vertical jump and running stride.
- Improves your mood and circulation – Lengthening and loosening your muscles helps dramatically with circulation. Stretching can release endorphins in your body, which boosts mood and increases positive thinking. By increasing blood flow, your heart rate will also lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard and blood pressure will become even and consistent.
A lot of people believe that adding a daily stretching routine is a waste of time. This is far from the truth! Stretching for even five to ten minutes a day can have lasting benefits to your body. Here are some simple and easy stretches that only take a few minutes. Do your body a favor and S-T-R-E-T-C-H. A good tip too, put on some music!
- Standing Forward Fold – Stand with feet about six inches apart and from the hips, fold torso over, reaching towards the ground or bending arms and grabbing opposite elbows above head. Exhale and lengthen down through the crown of your head. Hang and hold for 15+ seconds.
- Lizard Pose – Start in a downward dog pose. Step right foot outside of right hand and bend the knee, coming to a lunge position, right thigh parallel to the floor, toes turned slightly out. Come down to rest elbows on the ground. Keep neck and spine in line, and press left heel away, keeping hips square. Hold for 15+ seconds. Repeat on the left side. Remember to breathe!
- Figure Four – Lie on your back with legs extended in front of you. Lift right leg, bend knee, and hug leg with arms into chest for five seconds. Raise left leg straight up towards ceiling (or as high as you can), bend right knee outward, and place right ankle against left quad. Move hand behind left leg and pull left leg towards body. Hold for 15+ seconds.
- Seated Forward Fold – Sit on the ground, back straight, legs together and stretched out in front of you. Flex feet (keeping them active) and bend forward from hips, reaching for toes (or as far as feels comfortable) with hands. Hold for 15+ seconds.
- Up the Wall – Sit facing wall and lie onto your back. Moving buttocks as close to wall as possible, lift legs and rest the back of legs against the wall, legs perpendicular to the ground. Rest with your arms out to sides, palms up. Hold for 15+ seconds.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.