Anybody who takes exercise seriously knows that proper stretching and flexibility are paramount for an effective exercise routine and a healthy body. Without stretching, not only can you seriously hurt yourself during exercise and sport, but your body won’t be nearly as healthy.
There is much more to fitness than breaking a sweat and developing target muscle groups. Flexibility is a key aspect to fitness, and stretching will help you get there.
Stretching keeps our muscles strong and flexible. Without stretching, our muscles tighten up, putting them at a higher risk of injury, muscle damage, and weakness.
Stretching Exercises Should be Performed Daily—Athlete or Not.
To ensure proper joint mobility and to prevent pulling a muscle, it’s recommended that everyone, not just athletes, stretch daily.
Let’s say you’ve been sitting all day and suddenly have to run, or you play a game of basketball with your friends after work. Without proper stretching, the muscles required to run or to help you play basketball will not be prepared for these activities, and you won’t perform nearly as well as you would if you had stretched.
How to Get Started With Stretching for Flexibility
Stretching for the purpose of flexibility is much different than stretching to recover from a workout.
Static stretching can help you stay flexible, especially after a workout. Daily stretching might seem overwhelming if it’s new to you, but don’t worry—you don’t have to stretch every single muscle in your body in order to achieve flexibility.
During Periods of Limited Activity, Stretch Often.
This goes out to everyone working a desk job. You absolutely must stretch often to prevent muscle weakness, injury, and even headaches.
To stretch during work, stand up once or twice every hour, move your head and neck around, and do some very light neck, shoulder, and back stretches. Hold each stretch position for 10 to 20 seconds. Not only does this benefit your body, but frequent breaks also boost concentration, focus, and memory.
When Getting Adjusted to a Stretching Routine, Rotate Between Key Areas.
Since your legs literally carry your weight wherever you go, it’s important to stretch your lower body to maintain flexibility.
- Focus on your hamstrings. Sitting all day at work can be especially damaging to your hamstrings, so it’s important to stretch them. To do this, simply sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and reach toward your toes with your hands. Once you feel a burning sensation, stop, and return to a sitting position. You can repeat this a few times.
- Also, focus on stretching your hips. This is a tricky area to access, but it’s definitely doable! One of the more simple ways to stretch your hips is to stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your right knee, and pull your foot toward your back with your right hand. Hold this position for up to 20 seconds or until you feel a burn in your hips. Release, rest a couple of seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Absolutely do not forget your lower back! This is a problem area for many adults. Lower back pain can be dangerous if it isn’t addressed, and stretching this important area can help prevent weakness and injury. To stretch your lower back, lie on the floor and bend one knee. Pull the bent leg back toward you with your hands placed behind the knee. Pull and hold until you feel a stretching sensation down the back of your leg. Then, rest for a few seconds and repeat.
Need Some Guidance for Your New Stretch Routine?
Committing to a more flexible body requires stretching, as you have now learned. Seeking guidance from professionals who know the body inside and out is an excellent way to make sure you’re utilizing your body to its full potential.
Just like yoga studios, there are studios meant for stretching. Stretch Station in San Diego, California is one such studio, where assisted stretching is provided for anyone who’s interested—from athletes to people who simply want to be healthier.