We usually associate exercise with high-energy, aerobic, or strength-related activity. But stretching is just as important, although it typically gets left on the back burner. Stretching is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle, and the benefits are worth it.
Here are just some of the reasons to stretch:
1. Stretching is a great way to relax. If you need to wind down from a busy day, spend 5 to 10 minutes stretching to relax your body and declutter your mind.
2. Stretching can increase your flexibility, helping your body to move more freely with a greater range of motion.
3. Stretching exercises increase the flow of oxygen to your muscles.
4. By combining all of the benefits above, your body will be far less likely to suffer injury.
5. Stretching is so easy to do, anyone can do it. It’s free and you don’t need any equipment.
It is important to stretch when your body has been warmed up. Make sure you move around before you start to stretch. This will maximize the benefit of each effort. Stretching when your body isn’t warm can increase your likelihood of injury.
The exercises below are beneficial for your whole body. Hold each stretch for 1 minute.
Clasp both hands behind your back and stretch your arms behind your body. As you pull your arms and hands back, lean your chest forward to increase the stretch.
Inner Thigh Stretch
Start with your feet wider than your hips. Place both hands on your right knee as you bend your knee into a semi-side lunge. Keep your left leg straight, and you will feel the stretch along the inside of your thigh. Repeat on both sides.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold your right foot behind your body with your right hand. Press your foot into your hand to deeply stretch the front of your thigh. Repeat on both sides.
Place your feet slightly wider than your hips. Place your right hand on your hip and reach your left arm over your head. Lengthen the left arm as far over your head as possible to stretch the left side of your body. Repeat on both sides.
Bend your right arm up behind your head. Place your left hand on your right elbow and gently pull your right elbow with your left hand. Repeat on both sides.
Place one foot slightly forward and one slightly behind your body. Keep both feet flat on the floor, resting both hands on the front thigh. Keep your front leg bent and your back leg straight. You will feel the stretch in the calf of the back leg. Repeat on both sides.
Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. With 10 years of industry experience, she is passionate about sharing the gift of health and well-being. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.
Model: Alana Ford
All photos: Willis Lim