Stretching is an activity that is usually skipped in the health and wellness world but it’s one of the most important routines to be sure to get in.
Stretching keeps your muscles flexible, strong and healthy. Without an adequate stretching routine your joints will loose their full range of motion which is important for everyday activities and overall health and function of the body. Without flexibility the muscles in the body will become shortened and tight. The problem with this happening is when you want those muscles to work for the activity you are doing, they will be weak and unable to extend all the way. This will then put you at risk for injury, joint pain, strains and muscle damage.
As an example, one of the muscles that will become tight with extended amounts of sitting in a chair is the hamstrings which can be found at the back of your leg. When this muscle becomes tight it will limit knee extension which will then inhibit walking. On the other hand, when the muscles are tight and are quickly called on for a high intensity activity such as tennis – they may be over stretched and cause a strain to the muscle. Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints they connect to which can eventually lead to joint injury.
Where to start?
It can seem overwhelming to start stretching when you have a body full of muscles. Instead, start with the critical areas such as the neck and upper back along with the hips and legs. Pick one stretch for each area, such as a trap stretch, chest stretch, hamstring stretch and glute stretch. Then stretch them for 15-30 seconds on each side everyday – that will only take you 5 minutes to do! Commit to 5 minutes a day of stretching to start. If that seems overwhelming, then commit to 5 minutes of stretching every other day or 3-4 times a week. Everyone has 5 minutes to spare in their day somewhere.
Keep in mind that stretching once or twice will not correct the tight muscles you have in your body. It has mostly likely taken you months to years to become as tight as you are, so it can potentially take the equivalent amount of time to reverse the tightness and become flexible. So be sure to be consistent and work at it everyday. If you stay consistent you will start to notice a difference and you may even want to extend it from 5 minutes a day to 20-30 minutes as you will be feeling so much better!
How to stretch properly
Do not stretch a muscle when you’re cold and you have not warmed up properly. Muscles need to be prepared properly before an activity. Just 5-10 minutes of walking can help to warm up your body enough to get a proper stretch in. Don’t have time for 5-10 minutes of walking? Start with a warm shower to get your blood flow going towards all of the amazing muscles you have in your body.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds minimum but work up to holding them for 1 minute each. DO NOT BOUNCE – this can damage and hurt the muscles and is not beneficial for you to do. Reach and hold the stretch still – it may feel tight at first but as you hold the stretch you will notice the tension will loosen and you may even be able to stretch further!
There are many different ways to stretch before and after an activity, such as dynamic vs static. Dynamic stretching is a movement stretch that you would use to warm up before an activity and static stretching is the reach and hold stretch that you would use for a cool down after an activity.
Be sure to get a proper warm up and cool down with your activity of the day and include stretching.
Stretching can help to prevent injuries and can help with a quicker recovery after an activity.
Don’t have time? Start with 5 minutes a day – everyone has 5 minutes to spare in their day somewhere – stop scrolling social media and stretch ;).
Give these tips a try and slowly start adding a stretching routine into your everyday life!