Static stretching has received a bad rap with fitness and sporting professionals in recent years… And if my colleagues were to read this post, they might be a bit shocked. I’ve pushed pretty hard against using static stretching as a cool down after exercise; and I stick by that.
But while it might not be a great recovery strategy, regular stretching has some brilliant health benefits. I’ve recently implemented a morning wake-up routine, which includes 10-20 minutes of static stretching, and the difference it’s made to the rest of my day is very noticeable.
Here are some of the reasons (that I can now attest to) why you should be stretching every day:
- Breath Control and Stress Management
When stretching’s done right, you should be holding each position for 15 – 30 seconds, and breathing in and out in a slow, controlled manner. You should breathe in through your nose for three seconds, and then hold your breath for one second. Your breath out (through your mouth) should be controlled and even for three seconds. Again, hold for one second, and repeat.
This helps you to learn how to control your breathing, which in turn can help in managing stress and anxiety. Being able to regulate your breathing in stressful situations (including anxiety attacks) sends neural messages to your physical body that it doesn’t need to tense up and prepare for fight or flight; thus helping you to keep calm and in control.
Stretching is a fantastic form of self-care. Your physical body is intricately connected to your emotional well-being. Setting aside 10 minutes each day to stretch promotes emotional and physical health in a couple of ways. Firstly, you’re allowing time to simply listen to your body. Holding a stretch and focusing on your breathing and on how your muscles are responding helps to connect with your body, understand its needs, and listen to its feedback, which enhances self-awareness.
Secondly, stretching just feels good. You know what that means? That’s right- endorphins!! We love these little happy-clapper chemicals (literally). Endorphins promote relaxation and happiness. Not only will your physical body feel stronger and more “flowy”, but your brain will stay clearer, and you’ll lift your mood… which for many is especially important now that we’re moving into the colder and darker months.
- Flow-On Health Effects
When you dedicate 10 minutes of your day to caring for your body, you subconsciously become more inclined to make healthier choices throughout the day. Starting the day off by focusing on your body automatically aligns your thoughts with what it needs.
After drinking more water, regular stretching is possibly the easiest way to improve your health and wellness. So, figure out your favourite stretches (try to target all the major muscles), find a quiet space, make some time in your daily routine, and do yourself a favour!
[Just remember, you should never stretch to a point of pain; only mild discomfort.
Never try to force your joints to stretch in a direction that they’re not designed to move in.]