You don’t have to be a yogi to see the benefits of proper stretching. Stretching daily can improve your balance, coordination and flexibility, and may help prevent injury. Did you know that with repeated exercise, you can actually shorten your muscles? Counteract this by making stretching a fitness priority, instead of an afterthought.
When stretching, make sure you get your muscles primed by warming up with some light jogging or walking. You don’t need to do a full workout, just get some blood moving to the muscles that you’re going to use. The Mayo Clinic warns against using stretching as a precursor to a cardio routine because you may hurt yourself if you stretch a cold muscle.
Listen to your body as you stretch. While holding a certain position may be slightly uncomfortable, it should never be painful. Don’t overdo it. Also, if you have a previous injury, don’t overstress that part of your body. You may do further damage.
If you’re a runner, or an athlete who uses a specific group of muscles heavily, you may be tempted to focus only on stretching the part of your body you use most during that activity. Instead, incorporate full body stretching into your routine, and stretch all major areas including back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs. Sport-specific stretching is good and can help you improve your athletic performance, but don’t neglect other aspects of your body that are also in play.
As always, we encourage you to mix fitness into your daily routine. Stretching is one of the easiest aspects of a workout to include in your everyday life. WebMD has 12 simple tips for stretching at your desk that encourages readers to substitute walks for emails, replace a desk chair with an exercise ball and give themselves a hug (to stretch out the upper back). An article in Men’s Health encourages the 20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of work, complete 20 seconds of stretching or loosening up stiff muscles. We are huge fans of using technology to better your overall health. Set an alarm or reminder on your phone, online calendar or watch to remind you to get up and get moving.
Here are some great further resources that will get you loosened up in no time: