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Stretching – We know we should do it but why?!

When in doubt … Stretch it out! 

All too often we hear (or are told) that we need to stretch out more! This may be to fix our posture, lengthen a tight lower back/hamstrings – or better yet – be able to touch our toes!!! Stretching is one of those activities that is easily overlooked when it comes to working out (or ever!) Maybe it is because it only takes a few minutes it is easily brushed off. Or, maybe, because we do not see the benefits of results as easily so it is not taken seriously enough.

Knowing the benefit of stretching and trying a short, simple routine daily – can help deepen your understanding of why stretching is important in your daily life. I honestly LOVE a good stretch, and

it makes me feel inches taller, a little less stiff and honestly – a little like stretch Armstrong!

The reality of touching our toes is nice, but regular (daily) stretching is about so much more than just reaching the floor. Stretching is often associated with flexibilility. Indeed stretching is an important tool for injury prevention by keeping our joints and muscles in performance ready shape. However, it actually does SO MUCH MORE for our bodies.

Stretching can improve posture, boost energy and increase your blood flow. During or post-workout, stretching helps to boost muscle health and strengthen your joints. Whether you are working, travelling or lounging at home, we often sit for long periods of time. Unfortunately, lots of sitting (and poor posture) makes your hip flexors tight, which causes the glutes (butt muscles) to lengthen to compensate. Over time, this compromises the ability of the gluteal muscles to activate properly, leading to a condition called gluteal amnesia, AKA dead butt syndrome. This lead to an increased pressure on your lower back or the knees. I can’t ever say it enough – make stretching a part of your daily routine!

The Benefits of Stretching 

Stretching post-workout also gives muscles time to relax and reduce soreness.When you’re not at the gym, stretching helps improve posture by lengthening tight muscles (often compromised by using computers and Smartphones). It will help maintain your spine in alignment by stretching hunched shoulders and tight chest and your lower back muscles.  If you find yourself getting sleepy or losing focus while sitting for a long time, it’s time to get up and stretch! Stretching helps to boost energy by getting the blood flowing and improving concentration. Those afternoon – nearly-done-for-the-day slumps can easily be fixed with popping up out of the chair and working through a short stretch routine!

A shorter stretching session can recharge the body, calm the mind while improving flexibility. Longer sessions such as a Pilates or yoga classes may reduce tension and stress. Incorporating both of these into your weekly routine assists the body physically and mentally.

When to stretch

Often people confuse stretching as warming up (which is true of a dynamic stretch!) Muscles should be warmed up by walking or low impact cardio 5-10 minutes in order to warm up the entire body and increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. When I say low impact I do mean low, it can be marching or jogging on the spot, it could be lunging from one end of the house to the other – it does not have to be sweat inducing / panting cardio!
As part of your daily routine, stretch your hip flexors, neck and shoulders—this is a great way to wake up tight muscles and increase energy.
The true answer – is there is no wrong time to stretch! It can be as little as 10 minutes before you head out the door or on your lunch break up to a full 45 minute complete body session!

Tips for stretching

Hold each stretch when you first feel resistance, then inhale and exhale as you stretch deeper. If a stretch seems too tough to do, modify and adjust your position by performing the same stretch standing up or sitting down.
Neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, thighs and calves are the major muscle groups which benefit from stretching. Keep the following tips in mind:
  • Hold each stretch about 30 seconds
  • Stretch both sides
  • Don’t bouncing
  • Breath, exhale moving into a stretch and inhale as you hold the stretch

HAPPY STRETCHING EVERYONE!

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