We’ve all heard that stretching is good for us and should be done on a daily basis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we heed that good advice.
In the interest of the new year and of our January issue being health and wellness themed, the three of us here in the office have made it our goal to stretch with more frequency.
It’s no secret that sitting at a desk all day does serious damage to your muscles. Lack of movement causes muscles to tighten and therefore to shorten. When you stand up and try to walk after multiple hours of sitting, you may find it difficult to extend your leg fully and you may even encounter difficulty walking.
According to Harvard Medical School, “stretching keeps muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”
They continued that, “regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible, and this means that exertion ‘won’t put too much force on the muscle itself.’”
Quick stretches for your daily life
Here’s a few quick stretches that can be done from anywhere and will benefit your whole body.
The forward fold is the perfect stretch for those of us who sit at a desk all day. Simply stand with feet hip-width apart and bend forward, keeping your back flat, shifting your hips backward, and reaching your hands to the ground in front of you until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
If you want to add an additional chest and shoulder stretch, interlace your fingers behind your back near your glutes before folding forward, keeping your arms straight and letting them pull above your head as far as is comfortable for you.
Hold your forward fold for 30 seconds before releasing and repeat the movement two to three times for maximum benefits.
The bound angle stretch is an excellent stretch for opening up the hip flexors. Simply sit on the floor with your back straight and bend your legs until the soles of your feet are touching in front of you. From this position, lean forward with a flat back and bring your head as close to your feet as is comfortably possible for you. Hold this position for 30 seconds before releasing and repeat the movement two to three times.
The standing side stretch is an easy one to complete anywhere. Simply stand up tall with your feet together, arms straight above your head and hands clasped together. Bend your upper body to one side and take three to five slow breaths in that position before returning to center. Repeat on your other side.
The doorway chest stretch is another incredibly helpful stretch for those of us who find ourselves hunching over our computers at work. While utilizing correct posture will be most beneficial for chest tightness, daily chest stretches can also help with chest and shoulder tightness and pain.
For the doorway chest stretch you’re going to need – you guessed it – a doorway. Stand in the doorway and place your forearms on either side of the doorframe. Do one arm at a time if the doorway is too wide. Lean forward into the doorway until you feel the stretch through the chest and fronts of the shoulders. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times.
Obviously, stretching once isn’t going to be a magic fix-all for muscle tightness. However, when performed regularly over time – at least two to three times per week for 10-20 minutes at a time – it can improve flexibility, overall muscle health, and help reduce the risk of injury. So next time you have to walk over to the printer or to the bathroom, take an extra five minutes and run through these quick stretches. Your muscles will thank you.
*Disclaimer: All medical claims made in this article are information provided by the subject. The information is general in nature and not specifically meant for any particular individual. You should always seek out medical assistance from a medical professional based on your individual needs and circumstances.