Warming up and cooling down are crucial in sport and exercise, but stretching can be beneficial to anyone every day. Stretching is simple, calming, helps make any physical activity easier and reduces aches and pains.
What’s in a stretch?
Regular stretching can help with:
- enhancing your range of motion and preventing your loss of range of motion in your joints as you age
- decreasing lower back pain that results from poor posture in your upper back or tight hamstrings or hip flexor
- improving your posture by loosening tight muscles in your back, chest and hip
- lowering stress levels and headaches caused by tension and tightness in your neck, shoulders and upper back from emotional or physical strain
- preventing injury, especially if you stretch before physical activity, to help bring blood flow to your muscles and loosen them in preparation
Who should stretch?
Stretching is for everyone! The benefits vary according to your age and stage of life. Stretching can make the simplest daily tasks easier, from carrying large grocery bags or heavy equipment to getting up from a chair or couch.
If you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk or using your phone or computer, stretching helps reduce pain and encourages proper alignment. Along with strengthening, this helps restore muscle imbalances and can help correct your posture and increase comfort.
Stretching your muscles can also help heal any existing back injuries. In addition you can help prevent future back pain as you strengthen your back muscles and avoid possible muscle strain.
How should I stretch?
Regardless of your fitness level, stretching is an advantageous form of exercise to do every day. A minimum of five to ten minutes of stretching helps improve your flexibility and reduce muscle pain and tightness.
Here are a few stretching exercises you can try on a daily basis:
Stretch your back
The standing back arch exercise can help to alleviate and prevent lower back pain:
1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Place the palms of your hands on your lower back. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply a few times to relax.
3. Bend your upper body backwards while keeping your knees straight. Support your back using your hands and hold for five counts.
4. Slowly return to your starting position, and repeat this stretch five times.
Stretch your leg
The supine leg stretch works your ankle, calf, hamstring and lower back – all of which you use in your daily activities:
1. Lie on your back and bend your knees, with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Bend one knee and hug it close to your body.
3. Slowly kick this leg upwards toward the ceiling. Straighten and pull it toward your torso until you feel tension behind your leg.
4. Point and flex your foot three times and perform three ankle circles clockwise and anti-clockwise.
5. Lower your leg and repeat the stretch with your opposite leg.
Stretch your neck muscle
To loosen a tense neck while sitting at your office desk, try the forward and backward tilt:
1.Begin with your back straight and your head squarely over your shoulders.
2.Slowly and smoothly lower your chin toward your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds before relaxing and slowly lifting your head back up.
3.Tilt your chin up toward the ceiling. Bring the base of your skull toward your back. Hold for 10 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat this set a few times.
Where do I start?
If you’re new to stretching, start slowly! Give your body time to adjust and make sure you understand the correct form and technique to prevent injuries. Keen to get into it? There are plenty of people you can follow or watch online for inspiration. Check out Kayla Itsines, Dr Scudder PT and other stretching workouts on YouTube to guide you.
As with everything, it’s all about balance, so along with stretching, make sure you follow a proper diet, are sufficiently hydrated and get enough rest. Challenge yourself and make stretching part of your lifestyle, starting from today. Your body and mind will thank you for it!
Date Published: 15 April 2021