We all have woken up in the morning and as we roll out of bed we creak and crack. Our backs ache, our necks are stiff and it hurts to lift our arms. What we all need more of is stretching to improve flexibility. However, in our fast paced society it is hard to slow down and do some simple stretches to help us feel better and stronger.
Many ask, “Why should I bother to stretch?” There are so many reasons to take the time to give a little love to our muscles. Our muscles do so much for us: getting us from one place to another and helping us lift big and small objects. Stretching helps reduce the injuries caused during exercise and during daily activities. Improving your flexibility also helps to improve blood flow. Better blood flow means more energy.
Those are just the short term benefits of stretching. Long term, daily stretching helps to improve posture. Good posture makes you look younger and thinner. That fact alone should have you touching your toes and stretching your quads. It also helps with range of motion and improves balance. Both of these are important reasons to improve flexibility.
Improved range of motion and balance will help you feel younger and stronger.
Stretching also helps improve your mental health. When you stretch you need to stop and take time to relax and leave your stress behind. You breathe deeply, clearing your mind and bringing oxygen to your brain. By stretching you improve flexibility and your mental health.
So what types of stretching can you do to improve flexibility? Some people opt for regimented stretching programs. Things like yoga and Pilates are step by step stretches that focus on mind and body. They focus on concentrating on the poses and breathing through the poses.
Some people may feel intimidated by these programs, but there are great beginner DVDs to help ease you into the routines. Most people feel physically and mentally rejuvenated after stretching with yoga or Pilates.
Once you learn a few poses, you can do mini-routines throughout the day. If your muscles ache when you get up in the morning a few minutes of gentle yoga will loosen you up. Other poses could be done at your work station to prevent fatigue and stiffness.
Other people prefer to stretch before they exercise. Most experts recommend a light warm-up before stretching. Stretching cold muscle can lead to muscle strain. Do a few jumping jacks and run in place for a couple of minutes before stretching. After your muscles are warm you can begin stretching the major muscle groups. Pay special attention to shoulders, arms, quads (the front part of your thigh), hamstrings (the back of your thigh through your groin) and calves. For each group, stretch to a point of tension and then hold for ten seconds. Breathe deep and on each exhale, try to move into the stretch a little deeper. Don’t strain your muscles too far or you may hurt yourself.
Stretching is a gift you can give yourself. Many think of stretching as something you do before you run, play tennis or some other major activity. It is so much more than that. Take a few minutes out of each day to calm your mind and body. Even something as simple as neck rolls and shoulder shrugs will rejuvenate your mind and body for more energy and a happier day. You will be amazed at how quickly your flexibility improves after a few days of regular stretching.