When we think of stretching we tend to picture it in the context of preparing for or winding down after a workout. Those are definitely important times to stretch. However, taking some time to lengthen and loosen your muscles every day—whether you are exercising or not—provides a number of important health benefits. A regular stretching practice can:
- Increase flexibility
- Improve balance
- Relieve muscle tension
- Improve posture
- Increase blood flow
What’s more, these benefits may lead to others such as reduced fall risk in seniors and faster recovery from injury or workout-induced soreness to name just a few.
Everyday Stretches to Add to Your Routine
Stretching even infrequently produces benefits, short-lived though they may be. However, a daily stretching regimen provides lasting effects. Treat your body well by performing these stretches every day.
Keep in mind that how long you hold a stretch and how often you repeat it should be based on your fitness and comfort level. Ease into every stretch until you know your individual tolerances. It’s important to listen to your body; a little discomfort can tell you while intense or lingering discomfort means you should dial it back. If you have any health issues, be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning a stretching regimen.
Start on all fours on the floor with your shoulders directly over your wrists. Push your hips up toward the ceiling to form a triangle with your legs and back straight and your head between your arms. Hold the pose briefly, relax and repeat. This stretch works your hamstrings, mid-back and shoulder muscles.
Standing Calf Stretch
Using the back of a chair for balance, put one foot forward with your knee bent while leaving the other foot flat on the floor behind you with your leg straight. Gently lean into the forward foot until you feel the calf muscle of your back leg start to stretch. Relax and repeat, then switch legs.
Start on all fours on the floor. With your hands staying where they are, move your hips back until your bottom rests on your heels. Look down at the floor and hold the position. Relax and repeat. This stretch works your middle, lower back and shoulder muscles. It’s a very calming pose that you may find yourself wanting to stay in for a while!
Start on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Look toward the floor as you tuck your pelvis and round your back toward the ceiling. The cat stretch lengthens your spine and stretches your neck and back muscles.
Floor Hamstring with Strap
Start on the floor, on your back. Loop a strap around one foot. Without bending the knee, gently raise that foot toward the ceiling until your leg is perpendicular to the floor (or as close to perpendicular as is comfortable). Be sure to keep your other leg extended and flat on the floor. Stretch, relax, repeat and switch legs. This stretch works your hamstrings and calf muscles.
These five everyday stretches are a great start to a regular stretching routine. Of course, if you have the time and the interest, there are many more poses you can work into your regimen. Ultimately, any stretching you do will have a positive impact on your fitness and flexibility.