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Flexibility, like good posture, is not just for dancers, athletes, yogis or contortionists. While flexibility is important for the livelihood of these groups of people, everyone can benefit from stretching every day.
And if you’re someone who can barely touch his or her toes, worry not. Flexibility isn’t impossible. While stretching might be uncomfortable (which might be why you’re hesitant to try it at all), this discomfort doesn’t last forever. Like any activity, it gets easier with consistent, purposeful practice. In fact, stretching every day can help you get stronger, provide stress relief, and generally make you feel fantastic.
Here are all my reasons for why this massage therapist suggests stretching every day.
Flexibility is a Cornerstone of Strength and Mobility
Being flexible has its perks. Namely, the more flexible you are, the stronger you can become.
In a fascinating article from Men’s Health, the writer, an avid weight lifter, complained of back pain he simply couldn’t shake. He visited a physical therapist who prescribed a regimen of a daily, 10-minute stretching session. After a month of performing the doctor’s recommended stretching exercises, the man noticed that not only did his back pain go away completely, but the stretching also enabled him to build more muscle, run faster, and get stronger in a shorter period of time.
As the article stated, “A loose muscle is a strong muscle.” As a massage therapist, I couldn’t agree more. All that blood flow is not only healthy for the muscles and joints, but it teaches you how to use proper form in whatever physical activity you may be doing.
This flexibility is especially important as we age. Not only do our bodies slow down, but our mobility becomes more restricted. This restriction can make it hard to bounce back from an injury like, say, a bad fall. By practicing daily stretching now while you are in good health, you build the foundation for a more agile body later.
Stretching Improves Posture
Like I mentioned in my article about posture, the human body is not designed to sit in one position all the time. When you sit constricted in one position all day long, you force your muscles to tighten and contract. Not only does this slow down the flow of blood (and therefore oxygen) to your muscles, but certain muscle groups are forced to bear weight that they simply aren’t designed to bear.
Bad posture is synonymous with weak muscles. So, by stretching regularly, you’re gradually strengthening the muscles that will help you to improve your posture as well.
Stretching Eases Back Pain & Sciatica
Did you know? Tight hamstrings are most likely the cause of your back pain and sciatica issues! Why? Because the hamstring muscles issue from deep within the hip on your sit bone. When your hamstrings are tight, that tension forces your back to pick up the slack. This video demonstrates the mechanics of that tension well:
While massage can help ease this tension, stretching every day on your own gradually lengthens and loosens the hamstring muscles so that your back isn’t picking up the slack. Fascinating!
Stretching regularly, preferably every day, is an effective way to eradicate lower back and sciatica pain from the body. It makes sense, then, why yoga is so great for back pain relief!
It Feels Awesome
Stretching just feels wonderful, doesn’t it? Whether it’s taking a time out at work after sitting for hours or winding down after a long day, stretching out is both invigorating and relaxing. It has a way of giving your brain a boost and letting your body let loose…literally. Why shouldn’t that be something you do every day?
A Quick ‘n Easy 5-Minute Stretch Routine You Can Do Every Day
I highly recommend incorporating stretching into your daily routine. Do what works for you! It could be one daily session or mini sessions throughout the day…or both! Regardless, here’s a video I highly recommend to get you started.
It’s only five minutes long but it’ll give you a nice-full body stretch. It’s even appropriate for people who are new to stretching. Just remember: don’t force it! If something HURTS, ease up.
My 4 Top Tips for Stretching Properly
#1.Warm up the muscles first
It’s never ideal to stretch a cold muscle, especially on the hamstrings, which are prone to injury if you stretch to hard or too quickly. Before starting any stretching routine for the day, get up and move around first. If you can, swing your legs back and forth or do jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. And always stretch after exercising! This is prime time for your muscles to loosen up since they are already warm and are in need of some gentle TLC.
#2. Grab a partner
Partner stretching can help you get an even deeper stretch that you can get on your own. Grab your spouse or a good friend, lie on your back, and have that person hold your leg straight up and gently push it toward you. Hold for 15-20 seconds and release.
#3. Just breathe
All stretching pros will tell you to breathe into the stretch. That means that don’t tense up even more while you’re stretching and just let the stretch happen. Hold each stretch for three deep breaths. It’ll be uncomfortable, but that’s just your muscle fighting back. It’s not used to being stretched and that’s ok…this is the point where your muscle is loosening and lengthening, which is exactly what you want.
#4. Don’t push it
Pushing your limits with stretching is a balancing act. You want to give the muscles a nice stretch, but you don’t want to injure yourself, either. When in doubt, don’t push it. Like I mentioned above, your body IS fighting back when you stretch…but you don’t want to punish it, either. If something truly hurts or you can sense you’re going to far, then ease up. Flexibility takes time, sometimes years, to achieve. It’s best that you do it properly and effectively so that you don’t injure yourself in the process.
It’s easy to forego stretching and treat it as an afterthought (if you don’t ignore it completely). But don’t! By stretching every day, especially after you exercise, you’ll find that not only will you be more relaxed, you’ll experience less pain, more mobility, and stronger muscles. Why wouldn’t you want that? Happy stretching!