Stretching. Yoga. Downward dogs. They often fall into the flossing our teeth, cleaning under the couch and eating more vegetables category. We know we should do it… but we don’t.
So is stretching your muscles really that important? YES! Personal trainer Alita Ashcroft says stretching is just as important as exercise, but most people don’t make time for it.
So what are the benefits of stretching?
“Stretching can help decrease your risk of injury and increase flexibility and range of movement from everyday household activities to harder, faster and stronger movements when exercising,” she says.
Maintain good posture
In addition to helping improve your range of movement, stretching is also beneficial to maintaining good posture. Muscles shorten and get tight from day to day movement or exercise.
“If we don't take the time to lengthen and stretch these muscles we can get pulled into the wrong position or posture."
"This is especially common when people have jobs where they’re sitting at a desk all day or driving in a car for long periods of time,” Alita says.
Improve mental health
A hidden benefit of stretching that many of us overlook is happening in your mind. Alita says stretching helps to stop and slow us down both mentally and physically. And this positively impacts our overall health.
“It’s a wonderful way to release tension and stress," she says.
"We live in a very fast paced world and prioritising stretching for just 10 minutes a day can help both mentally and physically."
How do I incorporate stretching into daily life?
So you’re convinced. You’re ready to get those muscles limber and long. But where to start? Do you need to sign up to a daily yoga class? Should you stretch before or after exercise? How long do you need to stretch for? Are lycra leggings compulsory?
It’s all about balance and while Alita says it would be amazing for our bodies to do an hour-long yoga class every day, it’s not realistic for most people.
“If you can allocate one yoga session or a similar stretching class per week and add a few 10 to 15 minute stretching sessions after some workouts then you’re on the right track,” she suggests.
Other simple ways to incorporate stretching into your daily routine include:
- If you’ve got a favourite TV show that you just can’t miss, then why not get on the floor and do ten minutes of simple stretching at the same time?
- If you’re at home with young children you can try and do some stretches while you’re playing with them on the floor. They may climb all over you, but it’s better than not stretching at all.
- If you’re sitting at a desk most days try and get up at various times throughout the day and simply go for a walk (there are some great apps that remind you to do this throughout the day).
- Try incorporating some simple stretches into your morning routine after you’ve woken up or night time routine before you go to bed.
So there you have it. Try and stretch a little more and your health, posture and mind will thank you. Oh, and lycra is optional!