Why You Should be Stretching Everyday
Whether you’re a walker, runner, gym-goer or office worker, stretching should definitely be part of your daily routine. Both exercise and repetitive daily tasks (like typing on a computer), can take a serious toll on the body if proper precautions aren’t taken. Stretching is a critical component to injury prevention, recovery time and general health and wellness.
Stretching is a critical component to injury prevention, recovery time and general health and wellness.
First, let’s take a closer look at the different types of stretching and the benefits of each, then we’ll get into some specific stretches that you can easily incorporate on a daily basis.
Dynamic Versus Static Stretching
Dynamic stretching is movement-based stretching that is primarily done before exercise in order to prime the muscles and joints for movement and load. The types of dynamic stretches you will do depend entirely on the type of exercise you will do. The goal is to not only prime muscles for activation, but prepare joints for movements, therefore decreasing your risk of injury.
Static stretching, on the other hand, is the type of stretching you will do after exercise and/or throughout your day, whether you are working out or not. As opposed to dynamic stretching, static involves holding each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. The point of static stretching is to relax the muscle being stretched, and increase flexibility.
Both types of stretching are important for many reasons, such as pain relief, increased mobility and flexibility, increased energy levels, better blood circulation, improved posture and general relaxation.
Which Stretches Should I Be Doing?
As mentioned above, many stretches will depend on if you are exercising and what type of exercises you are doing. But, there are some key stretches that can benefit everybody, especially those of us who spend the bulk of our day sitting behind a desk. Unfortunately, this leads to postural imbalances, muscle tension and pain, and increased chance of injury. Thankfully, doing the simple stretches outlined below each day can help.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
For the best hamstring stretch, lie on your back with one leg straight up in the air. Using a strap of some sort (or even a towel works), lace it around the sole of your foot and hold onto each side with your hands. Use this to deepen your stretch. Hold each side from 30 seconds, breathing deeply.
There are several ways to do this one, and it is key for runners. First option is a half pigeon pose (for those familiar with yoga). This involves beginning in a plank position, then bringing one knee forward so it is at a ninety-degree angle directly underneath your chest. Lie down over the knee and hold for at least 30 seconds on each side. However, many people find that this option causes some knee pain or discomfort.
The second and simpler option is laying on your back with knees bent, feet planted on the floor just in front of your hips. Bring one leg up and cross it over the other, ankle resting on the opposite knee. Now, lace your hands behind the hamstring of the leg planted on the ground, and pull both legs in towards you. You should feel a pretty intense hip and glute stretch. Hold each side for 30 seconds.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Desk jockeys to runners alike are notorious for having tight hip flexors, and this stretch can really make a difference. Bring yourself into a deep lung position, back knee down on the ground (use a towel for padding under your knee, if needed). Gently lean forward against the front knee, and hold for 30 seconds on each side.
Think of how much time we spend in a position where our shoulders are hunched forward and incorrect posture. The cobra stretch helps immensely with decreasing lower back stiffness and pain and opening the chest muscles. Lay on your stomach and prop yourself up with elbows under your shoulders. Stay nice and lifted in the shoulders, pressing firmly into the ground with your hands and forearms. Hold this stretch for at least a minute, or get comfortable and hang out here while you watch TV at night.
Incorporating just a few simple stretches into your daily routine can go a long way in helping your body to feel better and stay healthy. If there’s a local yoga class in your area, that is another great way to stretch, strengthen and relax. Whether you are regularly exercising or not, stretching is an important element to wellness.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.