Feeling and looking your best is achieved by incorporating physical activity into your weekly routine. You’ve probably heard it said that you should ideally exercise 3-5 times a week for at least 30 minutes a pop. Biking, running, swimming, and lifting weights are common workout choices. But, don’t leave out one of the most beneficial aspects of exercise: stretching.
Daily stretching holds more benefits than simply increasing your flexibility. It has been proven to increase blood flow to your muscles, reduce stress, lengthen your range of motion, prevent injury during physical activities, and alleviate lower back pain. It is easier to find time in the day to stretch than you may think.
Here are our top 3 times of the day to stretch:
When You Wake Up:
Have you ever noticed how tight you can be when you get out of bed? Maybe you feel it in your neck or your back. If you exercised the day before, you may feel the sore-all-over tightness that comes with lactic acid build up in your muscles. Before you hop in the shower, take 2-4 minutes for some quick stretches. Excellent morning stretches are:
- Forward fold - Dangling or reaching for your toes will stretch your hamstrings. When your hamstring muscles are tight, you can feel the pain all the way into your back. Take at least 5 long, deep breaths as you reach to the ground. Stand up and then repeat the action reaching even further than the first time.
- Reach to the sky - This stretch will wake your whole body up. Start by reaching your hands up as high as you can, maybe even reaching backwards to the wall behind you. If you have ever taken a yoga class, think of this as a Backbend Pose. Reaching your extended arms slowly side to side will stretch your obliques as well as your spine.
Before and After A Physical Activity:
It has been hotly debated if stretching before and after physical activity actually improves performance. Either way, it will increase blood flow to your muscles, release tight muscles, and make you less susceptible to injuries. Specific muscle groups to stretch depend on the activity you’re about to do. When in doubt, stick to the specific muscle groups.
- Thighs - Your quads are one of your bodies biggest muscle group, so give them special attention. Pull your heel upwards to your butt, point your toe to the ground, and shift your hips forward to open up your quads.
- Back and Chest - Give the air a big bear hug by bringing your hands in front of your chest, interlacing your fingers and pushing out from your body to stretch your back. After a few deep breaths, interlace your fingers behind your back and perform the same motion to open up your chest.
When You Feel Stressed:
Perhaps last time you were stressed, it felt like your whole body tightened up. Most likely, it did. Stress causes muscles to contract; stretching will reverse that effect. It will also give you a quiet minute to take deep, calming breaths and reset your mind. Try some of these stretches next time you are stressed:
- Shoulder rolls - Reach your shoulders up to your ears, then to the back wall, then slowly slide your shoulder blades down your back. Repeat this motion several times in both direction focusing on slowing your breath. This stretch will alleviate upper back pain and tightness in your shoulders - a main area stress is carried.
- Deep breaths with arm circles - While you sit or stand at your desk, breath in deeply arcing your hands out to the side and up to the ceiling. One inhale all the way up and one exhale all the way down. Move through this stretch slowly, focus on the tension leaving your body, and quieting your mind.
Adding a few minutes of stretching to your routine throughout the day is sure to improve your overall health and well being. With it’s many benefits, it is another way you can bring about a stronger, more confident you.