You know that stretching is essential to your muscles and benefits your overall well-being, but do you know why being flexible is essential? And how can stretching help you?
Modern life has many people sitting at desks in front of computer screens for hours at a time. Holding your body in one position tightens ligaments and joints and over time can shorten the distance you can bend or flex them. Taking time each day to stretch improves not just athletic performance, but the range of motion, focus and back pain. Maintaining flexibility reduces your risk of exercise-related injuries and incidents. It also increases the blood flow into our muscles and brain.
Just five minutes of daily stretching provides noticeable improvements.
Do this every day
- Most benefits come from regular stretching. Committing to just a few minutes each day will improve your life.
- Pay attention to your body. When stretching, you will feel some resistance and tension in your muscles and ligaments. If the stretching causes pain, you’re probably pushing too hard. So be gentle with your stretching.
- Breathe deeply. Proper breath control comes from your belly, not your chest. Deep belly breaths improve the amount of oxygen going through your body and to your brain.
- Choose to target a variety of major muscle groups. Stretch your legs and hips, your torso, arms, neck, and shoulders.
- Hold each stretch for a count of 5 seconds at first. Then work your way up to 10 seconds for each pose.
Put technology on your side
Part of the challenge with stretching is reminding yourself to do it. Utilize the alarm on your phone or smartwatch to tell you when to stretch. You can even download an app to keep you on track with reminders of which muscle groups to extend, and walk you through the stretching exercises. Check out Stretching Sworkit, a free app with more than 100 workouts and guides to improve flexibility and avoid injury. Another free app, Flexibility by fitivity teaches stretching, dynamic warm-ups and even yoga stretches. Or, consider StretchIt. This app has an extensive library of flexibility and stretching videos. It also has a 30-day free training program and 50 hours of video classes.
If your work doesn’t allow you to leave your desk or work area, you can still do stretches where you sit.
If you’d like to find a class or group to stretch with, reach out to your local health club or YMCA to see if they offer a course.