Stretching is an element of health and fitness that often gets overlooked. A little bit goes along way. You don’t need to spend hours stretching.
Try spending five minutes three times a week stretching the tightest parts of your body and see what happens. You will be surprised at the difference such a small amount of time can make to your body.
In general, your body will have far more longevity if you nurture it. Stretching is often quite painful due to the extended periods of time we commonly leave between stretching (which leads to extensively tight muscles).
Tight muscles will eventually affect your joints and skeleton. Some of the wonderful benefits of stretching are increased range of movement and improved posture. For example, if your chest is tight, it is hard to prevent your shoulders from rounding forward. Stretching can also relieve stress in the body and is good for preventing injuries.
This week, practice a side stretch. It is easy to do, yet effective. You will primarily feel the stretch in two spots: the hamstring of the extended leg and your lower back. You will experience your lower back opening and lengthening as you reach deeply into the stretch. You may also feel the stretch across your hips.
1. Sit with your legs extended in front of your body.
2. Bend your right knee out to the side, placing your right foot against the inside of your left inner thigh.
3. Reach your right arm over the side of your head as you lean toward your left thigh.
4. Hold this stretch for one minute.
5. Repeat on the other side.
Breathing while you stretch is a vital part of achieving a deep relaxing stretch. Breathe deeply and slowly. If you hold your breath, your body will feel tighter because exhalation helps release tension and stress.
Elongate your arm and fingertips as far over your head as possible. Work on relaxing the side of your torso onto your leg.
Never force a stretch. Stretch to around 70 percent of your capacity. For the best results with any stretch, the position should be held for at least one minute. Any less would feel good but won’t be very effective in actually reducing tightness and improving flexibility. Holding a stretch for up to two minutes will give you great results.
I hope I’ve inspired you to stretch more. Start with the side stretch and keep your eyes posted for more helpful stretching moves in the weeks to come.
Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.