Stretching is often practiced as an aside before and after exercising, sometimes even forgotten altogether. Yet, stretching is just as important as aerobic exercising.
So here’s why an everyday stretch routine could come in handy…
When you stretch, your muscle fibers lengthen. Blood flow is improved. Tendons become more flexible.
So back to the question…
Do you still need to stretch even if you don’t exercise?
Health Benefits of Stretching
You must stretch before and especially after physical exercise. But you must also stretch even if you don’t exercise.
Because stretching helps:
- maintain and increase flexibility and range of motion
- improve balance and joint flexibility
- relieve muscle tension and soreness
- increase physical fitness
- prevent muscle, joint, tendon injuries
- relax your body and your mind
Simply put: Stretching helps us lead longer healthier lives.
So, don’t wait, start now by establishing a daily stretching routine.
Establishing A Daily Stretching Routine
Pick a convenient time during the day, one you can stick to. Allow for 10 minutes.
The idea is to work your way through your body and gently stretch every part of it. You will feel a lovely relaxing sensation all the way through your body at the end of it.
Here’s a suggested basic routine to get you started.
- Warm-up – Stretching cold muscles can lead to tears. To warm up move your arms and legs until you feel your body temperature is higher and your heart beats a little bit faster (jog on the spot, skip, jog knees up, star jumps, shake arms, shake legs, etc.). It doesn’t have to take long. Don’t turn your warm-up into exercising!
- Stand straight – feet shoulder width apart, shoulders down, take a few deep breaths to relax
- Stretch your muscles in a specific order, working through your body.
- Start with the neck – Slowly nod forward (mean for your chin to touch your chest) and backward (mean for your chin to touch the ceiling). Keep each position for 5 seconds. Once your head is back in the starting position (looking forward), turn your head to the left (hold for 5 seconds), then to the right (hold for 5 seconds). Try to use ONLY the muscles in the neck and limit movements further down the body in your shoulders or waist. Finally, gently and slowly, roll your head a couple of times in the clockwise direction, a couple of times anticlockwise.
- Shoulders and Upper body: Bring your arms up by the side of your body, keep them straight, forming a T-shape with your body, hold for 5 seconds. Then bring your arms in front of you and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Then gently swing your arms from side to side by turning your waist and upper-torso (not your knees). Let your arms ‘float’, moved by your upper-torso movement.
- Upper body and back: Raise your arms straight up then bend down as to touch the ground, hold for 5 seconds. Slowly come back up with your arms straight up and gently bend backward. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- Waist: Raise your arms straight up as in the previous exercise and this time tilt your upper torso to the left (hold for 5 seconds) then to the right (hold for 5 seconds) without moving your lower body.
Then place your hands on your hips and circle your waist 5 times clockwise, 5 times anticlockwise. Limit the movements in your head and upper body.
- Hips: Lean your upper body forward slightly and lift one straight leg behind you (hold for 5 seconds). Alternate legs and repeat 5 times.
Then, stand up straight, lifting one leg out to the side by about 6 to 12 inches (hold for 5 seconds). Alternate legs and repeat 5 times.
- Knees: Stand with your feet together. Place your hands on your knees and circle your knees 5 times clockwise, 5 times anti-clockwise.
- Ankles: Place your hands on your waist. Place the ball of one foot slightly behind you and circle the ankle 5 times clockwise then anti-clockwise. Repeat with the other foot. Hip socket should be loose.
- Feet: grasp a sturdy chair for support, stand straight and raise yourself up onto your toes eight to 15 times.
Breathe as you stretch.
Take Your Time
Stretching is not about speed.
Take your time to perform the stretches properly.
You shouldn’t feel pain in your body during the exercises – nor should you feel pain the following day.
Ease into your stretching routine.
If you find it too difficult, reduce the number of repetitions to start with.
Then little by little, increase them. Once you’ve practiced your routine many times, incorporate new exercises. Try and vary them.
Stretching is easy to do. You can do it anywhere. You don’t need much space. All you need is the will to do it. I personally like to stretch in the morning after my shower. It wakes my body up. It makes me feel healthy and ready to face the world.
You too, make stretching the part of the day you wouldn’t miss for the world!
If you want help turning this everyday stretch routine into an everyday habit then read this article: How To Learn Anything (By Understanding How We Form Habits)