While there’s no way to fully eliminate commonplace aches and pains that come from day-to-day life and aging, stretching regularly can certainly help. If you’re intimidated by the thought of stretching or worry you’re not flexible or limber enough, don’t worry. Practicing just a few basic poses daily and getting into a routine can greatly benefit you (and it’ll get easier the more you do it).
What are the benefits of stretching?
Stretching regularly can have benefits for both your mental and physical health. Some of the key benefits include:
- Decreased injury risk. Regular stretching may help reduce your risk of joint and muscle injuries.
- Improved athletic performance. Focusing on dynamic stretches before exercising may improve your athletic performance by reducing joint restrictions, according to a 2018 scientific reviewTrusted Source.
- Stand and hold onto a wall or the back of a chair for balance if needed.
- Grab the top of the left foot and bend your knee, bringing the foot towards the glutes, knee pointing straight at the floor. You should feel a stretch down the front of your leg.
- Squeeze your hips forward for a deeper stretch.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides, repeating one to three times per leg.
- Stand up straight with arms at your sides and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Carefully drop chin down toward chest.
- Slowly roll your head to one side, completing a full rotation.
- Once your head is back at your chest, rest for 5 seconds, then roll to the other side.
Repeat 5 times.
Lying torso twist
Lay on your back with legs extended straight. Bring your left knee towards your chest, then guide it across your body to the right with help from your right hand placed outside of left knee. Stretch your left arm out to the side and look towards your left hand. Breathe slowly and deepen the stretch with every exhale. Hold stretch for at least 20 seconds and repeat with right knee.
Benefits: The lying torso twist stretches your hips, groin, and lower back muscles, increasing mid-back mobility while opening chest.
Before you do anything, relax your shoulders. Did you feel them just drop a little? Chances are, you’re hunching your shoulders up throughout the day, storing stress and tension in your upper trapezius muscles, which you didn’t even know you were using. To stretch the upper traps and leave your neck feeling a little looser, begin by placing one hand over the opposite side of your head.
What are the risks of stretching?
Stretching comes with many benefits, but there are some risks to be aware of before you start a new routine. “Forcing a stretch can cause an injury,” says Quinn. “If you’re not listening to your body and pushing a stretch instead of allowing your body to guide itself, then you are going beyond what is safe for your body.” She advises getting into a position where you feel the stretch but don’t push it out of frustration. As always, listen to your body and consult your doctor to address your specific needs.
When should you stretch?
The type of stretching matters when we’re talking about the best time to stretch. Dynamic stretching, which involves movement, prepares your body for a workout. These stretches before a workout include movement-oriented moves like cat-cow, down dog to runner’s lunge, or thread the needle. On the other hand, static stretching (when you hold a position) helps your body calm down after a workout, which helps jumpstart the recovery process. Ending your workout with static stretches can help your mind relax and signal an endpoint to your workout. We’ll be focusing on static stretches in the moves below.
Lying on your back, raise one of your knees, and gently roll it over to the opposite side. Make sure both of your shoulders stay in contact with the bed at all times. If it feels comfortable, stretch one arm out to the side, keeping it in line with your shoulders, and slowly turn your head to face your outstretched arm. You should feel the stretch on the sides of your upper body and your lower back. Breathe deeply and hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
The Standing Side Stretch
- Stand with your feet together and your arms straight overhead. Clasp your hands together, with your fingers interlaced and pointer fingers extended. Inhale as you reach upward.
- Breathe out as you bend your upper body to the right. Take five slow breaths. Slowly return to the center. Repeat on the left side.
Stretching is an excellent thing you can do for your health. To discover simple, yet effective moves that can help you limber up for sports, improve your balance and prevent falls, increase your flexibility, and even help relieve arthritis, back, and knee pain, checkout the Stretching Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
This is a static stretch that is working the thighs and the hip flexor. Focus on keeping the core tight, the tailbone tucked, and the knees in alignment with each other and your hips. If you’re concerned about your leg area, we have advice on how to exercise without hurting your knees.
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart.
Lift your right leg back and up, moving the heel towards your bottom.
Use your right hand to help pull the foot or ankle closer to the bottom.
Shoulders – Box Shoulder Stretch
Stiff shoulders can reduce the functional movement of the upper body so it’s worth stretching them out frequently.
The Box Shoulder Stretch is a great, and underrated way, to instantly release tight shoulders as well as your upper back in general.
To do this shoulder stretch, kneel next to a bench or raised surface (e.g. your sofa) and place your elbow on it.
Dynamic extension, on the other hand, involves moving your body continuously. This type of extension helps to increase your range of movement and works best when the body is warm. To perform a Dynamic stretch:
- Start by selecting the muscle group you wish to stretch.
- Begin with a slow, controlled movement that gradually increases in range and speed.
- Repeat the movement for 8-10 reps.
- Gradually increase the range of motion and speed as you become more comfortable with the movement.