You know how satisfying it is to wake up and take that first long, deliberate stretch of the day? Your spine lengthens, your arms extend out from your body, your muscles contract, hold, and release. Maybe your toes point as your legs flex. You feel the blood start to work through your circulatory system with a vigor that wasn’t quite there while you were asleep. Your eyes close, your lungs fill with a deep and restorative breath. When your motion is complete and your body gently relaxes, you’re ready to get the day started.
Stretching for Better Health
Not only is stretching a motion that transitions us from a dormant state to an active one, that morning stretch has so many health benefits—both physical and mental! When done properly, consistent and intentional stretching routines are proven to increase and improve:
- blood flow
- range of motion
Additionally, stretching exercises can decrease tension and stress, reduce your risk of injury, and help you establish other healthy lifestyle habits.
Reach for It!
If it sounds too simple, it’s because it is—and that means there are no excuses to avoid incorporating a five or ten minute stretching session into your daily routine. However, before you start bending over to the front to touch your toes, make sure you consult with a medical professional first. It’s also a good idea to keep the following in mind:
- Set aside a few minutes a day for your stretching routine—whether it’s in the morning, after lunch, or before bed. Whatever works for you!
- Aim to stretch every large muscle group, including your back, shoulders, neck, hips, legs, and arms.
- Don’t “bounce” while stretching—this motion doesn’t help increase flexibility, it actually puts you at risk for serious tears and strains. Keep your motions smooth, steady, and deliberate.
- Stretching cold muscles can result in injury! Try taking a walk first to help warm up your muscle groups.
- If possible, hold stretches for about 30 seconds. But be sure to listen to your body! You shouldn’t be in pain while stretching.
Consult a Physical Therapist
A physical therapist is a great resource for establishing a safe and effective stretching routine. They can help you determine which stretches are best for your body and your overall goals. No matter your age or mobility level, there are special movements you can do to help boost your overall health. Just remember: stretching isn’t just something people do before they exercise—it is exercise!