Stretching Daily to Improve your Overall Health
Sore, stiff and aching muscles? Stretching is essential for flexibility and muscle care. But chances are, a quick stretch isn't included in your daily routine. Whether you run out of time, don't feel you have sufficient twinges to warrant testing your flexibility, or simply don't have the know-how, squeezing in some TLC is more important than you realise.
The benefits of daily stretching
Stretching before exercise is useful for preparing the body for exercise or daily activities and helps to reduce injury. Dynamic stretching (those stretches that involve movement) are considered better than static stretches (those that you hold) pre-exercise – as using range-of-motion is better for warming the body up for exercise. Stretching comes with the following benefits:
Boost your mobility
Stretching can improve your range of movement and mobility if practised regularly.
Improve your posture
Stretching can help to improve posture. Muscle groups such as hamstrings and those found around the chest can get progressively tighter by being forced into the same position for hours on end, as is often the case after a day at the desk. Stretching these muscles out regularly can help to counteract some of the effects of those hours spent sitting.
Minimise injury risk
Stretching can help to reduce the risk of injury and alleviate certain injuries (such as lower back pain), particularly if lack of flexibility is an issue in the surrounding muscles.
Stretching can be very relaxing! Unlike your cardio or strength routine, there is no real burn involved with stretching so it's a perfect time to sit (or lie) back and focus on breathing deeply, allowing tension to disperse and collect your thoughts for the day.
Try these 7 daily stretches
1. The neck stretch
This neck stretch can be performed seated or standing and is a great way to ease built up neck tension.
From a seated position, place your left hand on the right side of your head, with your right arm behind your back. Gently pull your head to the left side until you feel a gentle stretch in your neck. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side
2. The standing quad stretch
This can help to ease tension that builds up in hip and thigh muscles over the course of the day. Keeping these muscles flexible may help to keep both knee and back pain at bay.
From a standing position, using a wall or door for support if needed, bend your right leg, grab the top of your right foot towards your right buttock, knee pointing down at the floor. You should feel a stretch right down the front of your right thigh. Tilt hips forward to feel the stretch at the top of your thigh. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Switch to left leg.
3. The chest stretch
This chest stretch is one of the easiest ways to stretch out your chest muscles which can get tight and overworked if you spend a lot of time seated or on devices, and can contribute to poor posture.
Stand tall and clasp hands behind your back, squeezing your shoulder blades as you raise arms. Hold for 20-30 seconds
4. The cat stretch
This is a great little stretch to do at the end of the day. It's good for stretching out both upper and lower back and subtly works your core muscle too.
Begin in an all fours position with back flat before rounding spine and arching back your back and dropping chin to chest. Gently contract your abdominals as you do this taking care not to hold your breath. Hold for five seconds, relax and repeat. Do a total of five arches.
5. The hamstring stretch
A lying hamstrings stretch is a great way to stretch out backs of legs and a chance to lie down at the same time! Maintaining flexibility in the hamstrings is important, particularly if you're active and/or deskbound as tight hamstrings can place additional stress on the lower back, aggravating or even causing lower back pain.
Lie on the floor with both legs bent and wrap a resistance band, or towel, around the base of one foot (your other foot should remain on the floor). Slowly extend your leg upwards and aim to reach a right angle – you should feel a stretch but no pain. Once you feel a decent stretch, hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
6. The bum stretch
A glute (buttock) stretch shouldn't be overlooked either – this can also help to ease any hip or lower back stiffness.
Lie on your back with legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your legs off the floor and cross your right leg over the thigh, above your knee, of your left leg. Pull your left thigh and push your right foot (keep your right foot straight) towards you until you feel a stretch in your right buttock. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other side.
7. The hip stretch
Finish your stretching sequence with the dreamy hip roll exercise. More of a mobility exercise, the hip roll also stretches out muscles around the hips, lower back and chest.
Lie on your back with legs bent at the knee, feet flat, arms out to the side. Roll your hips and legs to the right, keeping feet flat on floor, as you roll head to the left. Hold for a count of three seconds, before returning to centre and repeating on the other side. Perform a total of 10 rolls.