Here’s a quick quiz. What takes five minutes a day, makes your entire body feel better, relieves stress, and keeps your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy?
The answer: Stretching.
That’s right. Stretching on a regular basis can result in wonderful benefits on your fitness and well-being. By taking just a few minutes each day, and with almost no wear and tear on your body, stretching can help you improve your health, agility, and strength.
Physical and Emotional Impact
From a physical standpoint, stretching helps improve your joint mobility and keeps your muscles flexible. Stretching can ease back pain, enhance your posture, improve your circulation, and reduce your risk of injury from other forms of physical activity.
In addition to the physical payoff, stretching also plays a major role in your mental well-being. Our muscles absorb and retain stress on a daily basis. Stretching helps calm the nervous system, forces you to relax, and helps you become aware and address where you’re holding tension. A good five-minute stretch can do you more good than an hour of massage.
Stretches to Live By
First, start right. Here is a great infographic giving you 5 Tips for Safe Stretching. This is one of many resources available to you online. Take a few minutes to make sure you know the basics.
Ready to get started? Great, here are six simple stretches to start each day off right. Remember, ease into each stretch, don’t push yourself beyond what is comfortable, and take your time with each. As always, if you have health concerns, talk with your doctor before beginning.
- Standing Hamstring Stretch – Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms by your side. Bend forward at the hips, lowering your head toward floor. Wrap your arms around backs of your legs and hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Triceps Stretch – Kneel, sit, or stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead. Bend your right elbow and reach your right hand to touch the top middle of your back. Reach your left hand overhead and grasp just below your right elbow. Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head, hold for 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.
- Butterfly Stretch – Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to sides. Hold onto your ankles or feet, engage your abs, and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Knee to Chest Stretch – Lie on your back with both legs extended. Pull your right knee into your chest, while keeping your left leg straight and your lower back pressed into the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other leg.
- Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch – Kneel on your left knee. Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent. Lean forward, stretching your left hip toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to two minutes, switch sides and repeat.
- Seated Neck Release – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or sit down with your back straight and chest lifted. Drop your left ear to your left shoulder. To deepen the stretch, gently press on your head with your left hand. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat to the other side.
Stretching is an easy, low-impact, minimal time investment activity that will pay dividends for you all day long. Take a few minutes daily and stay well.