Stretching can so easily be overlooked in regards to a fitness program – after all, how many of us can admit that we’ve left the gym or basketball court after a hard workout without stopping to focus on flexibility for a few minutes? At that point, we’re either rushing to the next engagement or so tired from our activities that it’s time to crash.
Spending just a few moments a day on flexibility can significantly improve several aspects of health – and you don’t even have to be in the gym to get some stretches in. Moreover, you don’t even need to be a certified yoga instructor to reap the benefits of some simple stretches each day – ones that will increase not only flexibility and range of motion but also your energy levels!
Let’s break down the benefits of stretching, how to start stretching, and four of the best stretches to boost energy levels!
Benefits of Stretching
The most prominent benefit of stretching daily is an increase in your flexibility. Essentially, flexibility is how well your body can move through its range of motion at your joints (think ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, etc.). While this might not seem like such a big deal at this moment in your life, it’s incredibly vital in terms of how well you move through your activities of daily living. This includes squatting down and getting up off the floor, climbing stairs, engaging in sporting activities, and even being comfortable while sitting at work. The more flexible you are, the easier life can be – and it will aid in improving functional movement down the road.
Another benefit of stretching is that it is relaxing, both for the body and mind. If your muscles are constantly knotted up and tight, it can lead to imbalances and asymmetries throughout the body. Even a short bout of gentle stretching (and even coordinated breathing, if that’s your thing) can help you focus on how your body feels and reduce stress levels.
Do you ever need an energy boost in the middle of your workday? Thankfully, stretching can do just that! Aside from lengthening the muscles, stretching allows blood in the body to circulate more freely, thus bringing more nutrients and oxygen to the muscles. The fresh blood supply to the body can then improve your overall movement patterns and efficiency, making you feel more productive!
How to Begin Stretching
If you haven’t really focused on flexibility as of late (or at all), now is the perfect time to start! As always, clearance by your physician is recommended to rule out any contraindications to a flexibility program; however, once cleared, you can do countless different routines and exercises to increase flexibility and energy levels.
Thankfully, even 10 minutes a day of stretching can be beneficial; this is especially helpful for those new to learning how to stretch correctly and without causing injury. When doing a chosen exercise, you want to aim for holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds, if not more. The critical thing to remember here is to only stretch to the point of being uncomfortable or at the point of tension. Stretching should never be painful, so if you find that it is, back off a little bit.
Stretching can be done daily, and the type of stretching can vary. For example, maybe one day, you decide to do more static-style stretches, while the next day, you want to focus on active stretching. Whichever technique you choose to do, ensure that you’re prepared for the exercises at hand in order to avoid injury.
Let’s break down four stretches you can do daily to boost energy levels!
4 Energy Boosting Stretches
Perfect for those sitting down all day! Sit on your chair with your torso upright and feet flat on the floor. With your arms down by your sides, slowly drop your head to the right shoulder, keeping your left shoulder down in order to initiate the stretch. If you need more lengthening, reach your left hand toward the floor. Hold for time and then repeat on the opposite side.
From a standing position, keep your head neutral with your spine. Keep your knees unlocked while bringing your arms behind you, interlocking your hands at your lower back. From here, slowly retract your shoulder blades and pull your arms back and away from you, opening up the chest and shoulders. Hold for time, then repeat if desired.
From a seated position, extend your right leg straight in front of you with your heel on the ground and toes pointed up toward the ceiling. Then, with an upright torso, hinge at the hips, reaching your hands toward your right foot and keeping your right leg straight. If you can’t reach your foot, it’s fine! Any point on your leg where you can still feel the stretch in the back of the thigh is sufficient. Hold for time and then repeat on the opposite side.
Lower back stretch
From a standing position, keep feet shoulder-width apart and knees soft. Take a deep breath, and then slowly exhale as you round forward to bring your hands down toward your toes. This standing forward fold takes the pressure off your lower back and can feel amazing after sitting all day. If desired, raise your torso up about halfway and take another deep breath, then slowly lower back down to the floor and see if you can get any more depth to the stretch. Slowly come back to a standing position when ready.
These are only a handful of the many stretches you can do to boost energy levels – and they can be done every day! Get ready to fight fatigue, increase flexibility, and improve your overall range of motion and functional movement with just 5-10 minutes a day of consistent stretching.