Why You Should Stretch More Today
When you think of stretching, you may think of it as a required pre- or post-workout activity, something you do in a yoga class, or an isolated movement you do to stretch out an area of stiffness. (Speaking of stiffness, if you are sitting in front of your computer screen all day while working from home, you may be noticing tighter hamstrings and shoulder muscles, a stiff or sore neck and perhaps other areas of tightness as well). The truth about stretching is that regardless of how stiff you are or what your workout schedule entails, we can all benefit from making stretching a daily practice. Stretching is associated with a number of physical and mental health benefits and is a free and easy activity we can incorporate into our daily lives. Here are some of the main benefits of stretching regularly:
Flexibility and Injury Prevention. Perhaps the more obvious benefit of stretching is that it promotes muscle flexibility. This flexibility helps keep muscles long, strong and healthy. Without stretching, our muscles start to shorten and tighten, which makes it harder for them to extend and perform when we need them to. This not only increases the risk for muscle injury, but for joint injury as weaker muscles can’t fully support the joints.
Improved Posture. What is your posture like right now? If you are like most of us, you may often find yourself hunched over your laptop or with your held tilted down reading on your phone. The good news is, stretching can help improve your posture by strengthening and properly realigning the muscles to be more vertical and less slouchy.
Increased Blood Flow. Stretching helps to improve circulation and increase the blood flow throughout the body. This increase in blood flow provides oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s tissues, which can help us feel recharged and refreshed, especially after long periods of sitting or stillness. This fresh blood supply can also help prevent muscle soreness.
Stress Relief. Many of us carry tension in our muscles. Have you ever noticed you are clenching your jaw or tensely typing with your shoulders shrugged? You are not alone; our muscles can actually tighten as a defense strategy when we are feeling overwhelmed. The good news is that stretching literally helps release this tension. Additionally, when paired with mindful breathing it can help counteract the physiological responses to stress by decreasing blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate, making us feel calmer.
Bottom Line: The benefits of stretching go beyond increased flexibility. Regular stretching can help decrease stress and soreness, improve posture and circulation, and give us time to reset and recharge. Start incorporating a daily stretch routine into your schedule to reap some of these great benefits!