When most people think of exercises to improve health, two types generally come to mind: cardiovascular exercise and strength training. However, there is a third type of physical activity that can improve your body’s health as well and that is stretching.
Benefits of Stretching
Stretching helps keep your muscles more limber which means that you will enjoy greater amounts of flexibility. This is important when it comes to doing simple things like bending over to pick something up, reaching up for something on a higher shelf, or any other movement that requires that your muscles either expand to beyond normal levels.
Stretching also reduces your risk of injury as having muscles that are too tight puts you at risk of snapping or tearing them, which means spending your time laid up in pain versus being able to continue with your workout regimen to further enhance your health.
Stretching Exercises to Consider
There are a number of stretches that can help elongate various muscles all over your body and here are some to consider:
- Back: side stretches, forward floor touches
- Abs: modified cobra, side twists
- Hamstrings: runners stretch, leg pulls
- Calves: wall calf stretch, curb stretch
- Chest and arms: corner stretches, hand down spine stretches
Ideally, you want to create a program that stretches all major muscle groups in your body.
Tips for Safer Stretching
When performing these types of stretches safely, keep the movements slow and controlled and don’t bounce. Also, hold your stretches for 10-30 seconds to give the muscle time to stretch fully, making sure you continue to breathe in and out to keep the oxygen coming into your lungs and ultimately to your muscles.
Finally, you want to stretch until you feel a slight discomfort, but not actual pain. If you notice pain or any other similar feeling, you’re stretching too far and need to scale back.
What stretches do you like most and why?