The important benefits of stretching

Stretching

This post was written by Keith Lewis, ACSM/NPAS, exercise specialist, Parkview Health & Fitness.

Stretching is an important part of our health and wellness for many reasons. One of the main reasons, is that it lowers the risk of injury. Additionally, stretching can keep the muscles in our body strong and help us maintain a well-rounded range of motion. When we think about long term health, having a healthy stretching routine can also have an effect on balance. The practice provides a wealth of benefits, once you know how to incorporate it into your routine.

Rise and stretch

Stretching is effective when performed any time during the day, but one of the best times to do it is early in the morning because the body is often tight from a long night of rest. A few good stretches to help “wake the body up” would be:  

  • neck circles
  • toe touches
  • arm circles
  • knees to chest

These stretches are beneficial because they target the hamstrings and lower back, as well as the shoulders and neck, which are some of the most common areas where injury can occur. Stretching first thing in the morning is important because it can improve your energy levels and help with your body circulation.  

Take a break and bend

Stretching throughout the workday is crucial as well, especially if you are sitting for long periods of time. In this case, stretching every 1-2 hours is a healthy habit. A few stretches you should consider through the work day would include:

  • reach for the sky
  • seated triceps stretch
  • seated lateral stretch
  • shoulder rolls
  • a short walk

These are all beneficial because they target your core and back. If we don’t stretch throughout the work day, our risk of lower back pain increases, our posture weakens and our chances of having a chronic disease increases.

Stretch and sweat

I also recommend dynamic stretching before your workout. Dynamic stretches include:

  • brisk walking
  • high knees
  • jumping jacks
  • butt kicks

Do these dynamic warm stretches for 3-5 minutes prior to your workout to help loosen the muscles and get the heart rate elevated.

Doing stretches after physical activity is just as important. Post-workout, you want to focus on stretching the muscle groups that you just worked out. You should hold each stretch position for at least 20-30 seconds. This practice helps the body recover, eases tension on muscle groups, reduces risk of pulled muscles and reduces the risk of injury.

Overall, it’s hard to argue with the upsides of stretching. A daily practice provides a host of health benefits, including improved range of motion, reduced risk of injury, improved posture, reduced risk of lower back pain, reduced stress levels and relief of body aches and pains after exercise. For inspiration, talk to your local wellness professional or browse online for different poses.  

 

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