Stretching is quite possibly one of the easiest forms of physical exercise. You can do it in your bed. You can do it in your chair. You don’t even need to be wide awake to do it; some people do it in their sleep. It doesn’t require any special training. Babies do it. Dogs do it. Cats do it. Even birds, reptiles, and amphibians do it. Stretching is good for you and it feels good, too. So why don’t most adults stretch more? Maybe we should.
Adopt: Why You Should Stretch Every Day
Not surprisingly, incorporating stretching and flexibility training into your routine can help you with a variety of physical health issues. Stretching regularly may be able to reduce symptoms of chronic pain, such as from back injuries and muscular problems (Kroll, 2015). Your range of motion also may improve if you add stretching to your routine (Battaglia et al., 2014), which can help you move more gracefully, bend more easily, and reach further.
Less commonly known is that stretching can improve your mental health as well. Many people say that stretching just feels good (try it right now and ask yourself how it feels), so it can serve as a moment of self-care and pleasure. Daily stretching for at least 10 minutes can help reduce symptoms of depression (Kai, Nagamatsu, Kitabatake, & Sensui, 2016). If you have anxiety, stretching can help you relax, decrease muscle tension, and reconnect you with your body, all of which may help you reduce your anxiety (Mircea, 2014).
Adapt: Stretch in a Way that Works for You
Before you get started, talk to your medical provider to find out if there is any type of stretching you should avoid. This is especially important if you have a physical problem already, such as back problems, pinched nerves, or musculoskeletal problems.
Choose a physical activity that you love and find out how to add stretching to it. Professional and competitive dancers, martial artists, runners, swimmers, and even bowlers have stretching routines that they incorporate into their training. There is a good chance that no matter what you enjoy doing, stretching can be added to it. Find out if there are already stretching exercises that would benefit you in this activity and consider including them in your daily routine.
Some people love the flowing movements of Tai Chi while others prefer the sustained movements of yoga. Still other people like the idea of doing those stretches you did in PE class. Try different types of stretching and flexibility programs and learn which ones feel best for you.
Attach Stretching to a Routine You Already Do
If you normally wake up and watch TV, try stretching while you watch your morning shows. If you have a habit of standing up every hour at work, then add a stretch or two to your standing break. At night, before you go to bed, use your bed as a tool to stretch your muscles right before you climb under the covers (example, use your bed the same way dancer use a ballet bar). Stretching is so easy that you will likely find multiple routines that will easily welcome the attachment of some new stretching habits.
Remember: Wellness Habits Are the Foundation of a Life of Well-Being
Battaglia, G., Bellafiore, M., Caramazza, G., Paoli, A., Bianco, A., & Palma, A. (2014). Changes in spinal range of motion after a flexibility training program in elderly women. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 653. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S59548
Kai, Y., Nagamatsu, T., Kitabatake, Y., & Sensui, H. (2016). Effects of stretching on menopausal and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women: a randomized controlled trial. Menopause, 23(8), 827–832. https://doi.org/10.1097/GME.0000000000000651
Kroll, H. R. (2015). Exercise Therapy for Chronic Pain. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 26(2), 263–281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2014.12.007
Mircea, B. (2014). The Efficiency of Physical Therapy Associated with Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 140, 348–352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.04.433