New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
BLESSED are the FLEXIBLE
BEND AND STRETCH – YOUR MIND AND BODY WILL THANK YOU FOR IT!
Stretching should be a part of our daily routine, whether or not we exercise. Here’s why spending just 10 minutes a day can have huge benefits.
• Stretching relieves muscle tension and can help you feel less stressed. When you are wound up, you tend to contract your muscles, which can lead to tenseness and pain. Stretching loosens tense muscles and increases blood flow.
• Like exercise, stretching can prompt the body to release endorphins, the chemicals that give you a feeling of joy. A few gentle stretches first thing in the morning can not only “wake up” stiff and sleepy muscles, but get your day off to a good start by boosting your mood. And if you stretch before bed, the release of endorphins can give you a better night’s sleep.
• Stretching increases flexibility, which can reduce your chances of suffering injury during exercise or while doing everyday tasks. It gives you an improved range of motion, which also cuts the likelihood of being injured because your body is better able to do the physical movements you are putting it through. If you don’t exercise and tend to have stiff muscles and creaky joints, improving your range of motion with stretching can also help with those issues.
• It can improve your posture. Stretching lengthens tight muscles that can pull parts of your body away from their intended position. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help to keep the spine in alignment, and improve overall posture by relieving aches and pains. If you are not in as much pain, you are less likely to hunch or slouch.
• It boosts energy levels. Stretching loosens muscles and helps blood to flow better around the body, in turn helping to combat tiredness, especially in the afternoon. As it can also increase blood flow to the brain, a few minutes of stretching can help when you’re feeling a bit sluggish. Getting up from your desk and doing a few stretches can help you to beat the 3pm slump.
• Improving blood flow to muscles not only helps to reduce post-workout soreness, but it has a positive effect on overall health. Better blood circulation promotes cell growth and organ function. It can also help to lower your heart rate.
• Stretching reduces high cholesterol, according to research. When combined with a healthy diet, doing prolonged stretching may help to remove dangerous LDL cholesterol from the body, preventing the hardening of arteries and lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
• It may help lower blood sugar. A 2011 study of adults who had type 2 diabetes or were prediabetic found that those who stretched for 40 minutes after drinking a sugary drink had lower blood sugar than those who assumed the same positions but didn’t stretch first.
HOW TO STRETCH PROPERLY
• Never stretch cold muscles – you can damage them. Move a little first to start blood flowing.
• Unless you’ve done a workout and your muscles are very warm, don’t do static stretching (getting into a position and holding still). Instead do dynamic stretching, which means doing small, controlled movements to stretch little by little.
• Never stretch until it hurts.
This can lead to injuries. Take it easy, especially if you are just starting out.
• Don’t just focus on your legs and your back, stretch your arms, neck and hips too.