People who want to look amazing, overflow with vitality, and age gracefully over the decades, know it’s vital to keep moving. An important element to include in your overall health goals is stretching. The great thing about stretching is that you can do it just about anywhere and at just about any time.
A great way to start your day is with exercise, and stretching can accompany your morning workout quite nicely.
- If you’re stuck on hold on a phone call, take a moment to stretch a bit.
- If you’re early for your exercise class, do some dynamic stretches.
- If you’ve had a long day and it’s time to unwind, why not take some time for a warm bath followed by gentle stretching before bed?
How often should we stretch?
When it comes to stretching, remember the saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” The more often you stretch, the more flexible your body remains. The ballerina you see each December at the Nutcracker performance didn’t get to the point of flexibility she’s at without regular, gentle stretching. Stretching takes work, but it pays off richly in the long run.
How often should we stretch? Regularly! Two or three times a week will keep you limber and flexible so you can enjoy life and working out to its fullest.
Types of stretching
There are two primary types of stretching, and doing both types regularly proves valuable to maintain your flexibility and vitality.
Static—Static stretching is done in a stationary position with gentle, smooth movements, and without bouncing or trying to overstretch. It is best to do static stretching after you’ve warmed up on something such as a bicycle for 5-10 minutes.
Dynamic—Dynamic stretching is done by gently mobilizing your body prior to working out. By simply doing the movements you normally do to work out, but slowing them down significantly, you can provide a good dynamic stretch for your body and get the blood flowing before the bulk of your workout begins. When you start out slowly and with low intensity, your muscles get warmed up nicely. Once you are warmed up with some dynamic stretching, speed things up a bit and begin your workout.
- Stretching may decrease your risk of injury.
- It improves your range of motion.
- Stretching increases the blood flow to your major muscle groups.
- It helps your body to release toxins.
- Stretching helps release tension in your body.
- It may help decrease soreness in your body.
- Stretching increases nutrient flow throughout your body.
- It may help improve some athletic performance.
- Stretching can help aging seniors stay agile and may contribute to a reduced risk for falls.
- Warm up for 5-10 minutes before stretching.
- Don’t overstretch—if it hurts, you stretched too far.
- Work on stretching your major muscle groups such as hamstrings, calves, thighs, and hips.
- Breathe slowly and deeply while stretching.
- Stretch to the point that there is slight tension rather than pain, then hold the stretch 30-50 seconds.
- Don’t bounce while stretching or you may end up hurting yourself.
- Use smooth, gentle movements while stretching to avoid injury.
- Approach stretching with caution, especially if you have a strained muscle or are recovering from an injury.
- Remember, stretching can’t prevent things like overuse injuries, so use good common sense when exercising.
5 Simple Stretches to Keep You Flexible
- Low Lunge—The low lunge helps improve your balance, opens your hip flexors, and opens your chest and back. Here’s how to do a low lunge:
a. Kneel down
b. Step your right foot forward so your knee forms a 90-degree angle
c. Lift your hands up and over your head
d. Bend your upper back slightly backward
e. Hold this stretch as you take 6-8 deep breaths
f. Repeat on the opposite side
- Upward Facing Dog—To enhance your overall posture and open up your chest, arms, and hip flexors, perform this stretch. Here’s how to do an upward dog stretch:
a. Get into the plank position
b. Press the top of each of your feet into the floor as you lower your hips
c. Arch your upper back
e. Hover just above the ground for an effective stretch
f. Engage your core muscles and press firmly into your hands and feet simultaneously
g. Hold for 30-50 seconds
- Downward Dog—To strengthen your muscles, open your hamstrings, back, and shoulders, perform the classic downward dog. Here’s how to do a downward dog stretch:
a. Get on your hands and knees on an exercise mat or soft surface
b. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up high and backward at the same time to form an upside-down V
c. Engage your core muscles
d. Press firmly into your hands so you feel the stretch across your whole back
e. Hold for 5-8 breaths and repeat
- Seated Forward Bend—Perform the seated forward bend in order to bring a pleasant calm to the end of your day, opening your hamstrings and lower back. Here’s how:
a. Sit on the ground with both of your legs in front of you
b. Flex your feet and engage your quadriceps
d. Hinge forward at your waist and fold your upper body over your lower body
e. Hold this position for 5-8 breaths
- Cobbler’s Pose—To stimulate circulation throughout your body, and open up your inner thighs and groin muscles, perform the relaxing cobbler’s pose. Here’s how:
a. Sit with your feet together (facing each other) and your knees open to the sides
b. Hinge your body forward from your waist as far as you can
c. Round your body forward over your legs
d. Hold this position for 5-8 breaths
Get a Free Training Session
To learn more about stretching exercises and other valuable tools to help you reach your goals, call today to get a free training session at Elite Training of Tulsa.