Most of us *might* stretch at the end of a workout, perhaps before and after if we’re really keen. But did you know that stretching is not just for loosening muscles up around a workout? In fact, a few simple stretches through the day can actually improve your health.
Benefits of stretching
At its core, stretching improves your flexibility and can help prevent injuries from pulls or overuse. When you stretch a particular muscle group you are increasing the blood flow to that muscle, which speeds up healing. Even if you don’t think you’ve injured a particular muscle, you may have tiny micro-tears that can lead to a larger problem if left unaddressed. Although stretching is best with warmed-up muscles, you can gently stretch any muscle group at any time. Focus on the major muscle groups that you use regularly – such as calves, quadriceps, or lower back muscles. Alternatively, you can focus on a particular area where you are having pain or discomfort to increase the blood flow. This is especially important if you have a job where you do something repetitive, for example, sitting at a desk all day or standing for long periods of time.
Make it a part of your day
Here are a couple of easy stretches you can incorporate into your day, whether at home or at work:
- Shoulder: Place your left hand under your right elbow and pull your right arm across your chest, using your left hand to increase the depth of the stretch. Hold for 20 second and then switch sides.
- Chin tuck / neck stretch: Facing straight ahead, lower your chin as far as possible to your chest. Hold for 20 seconds.
- Lower back stretch: Sitting at the front of your chair, bend one knee towards your chest. Lace your hands under the back of your thigh to pull your knee towards you while keeping your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and repeat with your other leg.
- Thigh stretch: From a standing position, bend one knee and lift your foot towards the ceiling, reach back and grab your ankle with your hand. Pull your ankle towards your buttocks, keeping your knees side-by-side. Hold for 20 seconds, repeat with the other leg.
Once you have the hang of these basic stretches, start adding more stretches into your routine. Whenever you find yourself with a few extra minutes, squeeze in a couple of stretches – your body will appreciate it!
Talk to your doctor
If you have a particular issue or injury, consider talking to your doctor or physical therapist to find out if there are stretches you should avoid, or if there are stretches that can help you to decrease pain and improve flexibility. Photo:lululemon athletica