You’ve probably heard about how important stretching is – but why? Daily stretching contributes to decreasing pain and muscle soreness, helps to improve posture and reduces risk of injury. It increases your blood flow which will improve your alertness and energy levels. It is also a great addition to any self-care routine as it aids in reducing stress and associated muscle tension while allowing you to feel more connected to your body.
One of the main reasons people neglect to stretch is because they feel they simply do not have the time in their day. Our day-to-day routines can become so overwhelmed with various tasks and responsibilities that adding something extra seems impossible. But…what if there was a way you could gain all the benefits of stretching without sacrificing more of your time? The answer is to combine simple, easy stretches into your everyday tasks!
Waking Up in the Morning
Rise and shine! First thing in the morning is a perfect time to ease your body into your day with a few upper body stretches. You can try to link your fingers and reach up overhead towards the ceiling, and then reach side to side. This can be done lying down or sitting up. Not only does this warm up the joints in your arms, but you will feel a nice release through your upper back in the muscles that may have stiffened up overnight.
On Your Daily Coffee Run
Is that line-up in the drive-thru at your local coffee shop feeling a bit longer than usual? Take this time to stretch out your neck. Place one hand behind your back and side bend your neck towards the opposite shoulder until you feel a nice stretch in the neck muscles. Switch hands and bend your neck towards the other side. Repeat a few times on each side to feel the tightness and stress melt away. You can also try bringing both arms behind your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and open up chest towards the sky. This will relax your chest muscles and help improve posture.
During Working Hours
Do you ever feel that you’ve been sitting for so long at your desk that everything is tightening up? Try this! Sit at the edge of your chair. Place the outside of one ankle onto the top of your opposite knee. Rest your hands on your legs and gently lean forward at your hips, keeping your back in a neutral position. You should feel a nice release in your hip muscles. Repeat on the other leg and loosen up those glutes! If you do a lot of typing in your day, your hands and forearms are bound to tighten up. Bring one arm out in front of you, and using your other hand, apply a downward pressure to the wrist. This is great to relax your forearm muscles.
Cooking in the Kitchen
Preparing meals throughout your day is an excellent chance to mix in some leg stretches. While using your kitchen counter for support, shift your weight onto one leg and using the hand on the opposite side of the body, lift your other ankle off the floor and pull up towards your buttock. This is great to help with tension in the front of the thighs. You can also try standing with your feet hip-width apart, bending forward and reaching down towards your toes to relax the muscles in the back of the legs.
Are you someone who enjoys a nighttime stroll through your neighbourhood to wind down after a busy day? While you’re walking, bring one arm out in front of you, use your opposite hand to pull your arm across your body and hold to stretch out through your shoulders. If you come across a wall, tree or fence, take this opportunity to stand with one foot slightly in front of the other, place your hands on the supporting surface and keep your heel of your back foot flat to the ground while you begin to lean in towards your hands. You should feel a gentle stretch in your calf. Switch legs and repeat.
Give some of these stretches a try on a daily basis and watch as your body begins to relax and your flexibility improves. You only get one body – do your best to treat it right!
Always consult with your physician or other health care professional before beginning this or a new exercise program to determine if it is the right fit for your needs.
By: Kelly Giroux, Physiotherapy Resident