With our busy lives, it’s hard enough to fit in a workout, much less take time to stretch. So, are stretching exercises necessary to our modern fitness routines? The answer from Mayo Clinic is a resounding “yes”.
The Mayo Clinic says that, in general, stretching exercises may help you:
- Improve range of motion in joints
- Improve athletic performance
- Reduce risk of injury
In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that you stretch for 60 seconds on each major muscle group at least two times a week.
Why adding Stretching Exercises weekly will help you get moving again.
If you you’re spending more time in the office, and less time in the gym, you are not alone. You may be feeling stiff. All this time sitting can lead to the loss of strength, mobility, and flexibility. Poor posture can develop from spending long sitting sessions, especially from a workstation that’s not set up for proper ergonomics. Muscles can lose range of motion when they are not engaged in movement. What you need today is a stretch session.
In fact, muscles can become chronically tense and contracted due to improper body mechanics, which leads to diminished strength and function. Without movement, your muscles can become tight and even shorten so that when you’re ready to move your body, it’s harder to extend because the muscles have become weak. Stretching can help restore muscle balance by counteracting sustained postures, interrupting repetitive movements.
Get Back On Track!
If you’ve recently recommitted to getting back on track, you might feel discouraged by your lack of range of motion due to muscle shortening, and the same movement you used to do (hiking, biking, running, rowing) might even seem foreign to your body.
If you want to set your body up for long-term success, now may be the time to add a stretch session to your wellness goals. Not only is it a great way to get your body moving again, but it also increases spatial awareness (also called proprioception), which sparks muscle receptors that help improve balance and movement.
When you feel better about how your body moves, you may be more inclined to keep going. In fact, regular stretching improves overall function by ensuring that the body can respond to added activity.
The best time to add a stretch session into your routine is after you’ve completed another exercise activity and your muscles are warm. Even if you’re just getting started again and your activity is taking a short walk around your block, a stretch session at the end can help your body begin to improve muscular function.
To Hold, or not to Hold, that is the question.
The answer is both. Dynamic stretching is best for warm ups, and static stretching is most effective for cool downs. In fact, some research indicates a decrease in athletic performance when using static stretches before a workout or competition.
A dynamic stretch, like the Cat-Cow, moves a muscle group fluidly through an entire range of motion. Dynamic stretches are meant to mimic the motions of the exercises that are forthcoming in the workout, but done at a slower pace in order to prepare the body for the workout.
- Start in hands and knee position
- Round your back, pulling your chest in and your shoulders curved forward.
- Next, arch your back so that your chest opens and your shoulders roll back.
- Repeat several times.
Stretching a muscle to the fullest extent of your ability and holding it for 15 to 30 seconds is known as a static stretch. Static stretches can help to increase the circulation to tired muscles and release tension that has built up.
- Begin on your hands and knees.
- Spread your knees wide keep your big toes touching. Rest your bottom on your heels if you have the flexibility. If you have tight hips, keep your knees and thighs together.
- Lengthen your spine up through the top of your head.
- Keep arms long and extended, palm down. Press back slightly to keep your bottom in contact with your heels.
- Broaden your upper back while allowing your lower back to soften.
- Hold for up 60 seconds, breathing softly.
- Release the pose by gently using your hands to walk your torso upright to sit back on your heels.
Smart Mats make Stretching Exercises easy. Get Started Today!
Our 6 mm SMART Yoga Mat makes any surface ready for your next stretch session. There is just enough padding for your knees, bottom, and other areas of your body to feel protected from the hard ground. The non-slip pad is easy to transport anywhere and can even be used to create a workout space outside. Plus, it creates an instant clean area for your workout regardless of where you are.
The other benefit to our SMART Yoga Mat is that if you need inspiration for your workout, you can simply follow the 14 stretch, or 14 core exercises printed directly on our self-guided product.
If you’re looking for a longer session, try this!
7 Stretching Exercises to Get You Moving Again
Select two or three of your favorite songs. Follow the below sequence of stretches completing each one for about 30 seconds for about a 10-minute stretch session. These stretches are a good mix of upper and lower body mobility work.
- STANDING CHEST OPENER
- Grasp hands behind your back and ease them down toward your bottom while pulling your shoulders back and down.
- STANDING TRICEP STRETCH (RIGHT & LEFT)
- Lift one arm up with your elbow facing the ceiling and your hand reaching down your back.
- WIDE HINDI SQUAT TO FORWARD FOLD
- With feet wider than hips, toes pointed slightly out, lower bottom toward ground keeping your tailbone tucked in. Hands can be in prayer position or anchored to your inner knee. Hold at your bottom threshold, and then tip your body so your head goes toward the ground and bottom goes into the air. Move slowly back and forth between these two moves.
- WIDE LEG Posterior Stretch
- With legs wide, ease hands toward the floor and hold.
- WIDE LEG Posterior Stretch with a Spinal Twist (RIGHT & LEFT)
- From the above position, lift one arm toward the ceiling while the other stays close to the floor, aligning from top to bottom. If you have mobility in your neck, gaze toward your upper hand.
- Start in child’s pose and then turn your feet out and lift your upper body onto your elbows. Hold this position for the full 30 seconds, or if it’s too intense, hold for 5 seconds and then release to all fours and repeat.
- HIP FLEXOR WITH A SIDE “C” REACH (RIGHT & LEFT)
- On your knees, put your right leg forward and stretch into the front of your hip on the left leg. Raise your left arm so your hand is above your shoulder. Take the right arm out to the right side, and then bring it up toward the ceiling while at the same time reaching your left arm toward your right side. Repeat.
Staying flexible as you age is a good idea. It helps you move better. It helps you feel better, and it helps you recover more quickly after exercise. The Mayo Clinic notes that stretching will not replace the many beneficial effects of aerobic exercise, but it can complement your workout. And it may be especially helpful after a bout of endurance training or weightlifting.