There are many studies that advocate for the benefits of stretching. Stretching helps lengthen muscles and connective tissue, increase circulation, and if performed with strengthening exercises as well, can improve daily function and movement of the body.
Stretching benefits can go beyond flexibility benefits.
Traditionally, stretching was considered to be done within the warmup routine of a sport or workout. It was then performed at the end of the workout as well. However, the benefits of stretching, go beyond just improved mobility, better posture and how good it makes you feel. A new study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, showed that stretching is good for lowering your blood pressure. It found that performing stretching exercises for a half-hour, five days a week, is more effective at fighting hypertension (or high blood pressure, which elevates your risk of stroke and heart disease) than going out for "brisk" walk for the same amount of time. Also, if your hand or feet are cold, many people have found that daily stretching helps increase circulation and in turn help control body temperature. Movement is good for the body even in small doses.
So, if daily walking is good for you, it makes sense that daily stretching could be key to feeling better too. The best part is that it doesn’t take a long time to stretch to reap the benefits. A regular stretch routine of 10-15 minutes can be enough. For many people who don’t exercise, stretching can be a good alternative and possibly a catalyst for starting a regular exercise routine.
Five Stretches That Should Be in Your Daily Routine
Wide Pull Stretch - Standing with hands on nylon straps midway between loops and rings, or where most comfortable, and elastic center around the back, press arms out to sides and squeeze shoulder blades together to open the chest.
Bow And Arrow Stretch -While standing, place one loop in hand and other on opposite foot. Press free hand into elastic center and over to loop hand to engage obliques and strengthen core. Keep both arms extended and keep elastic center on the outer hip.
Supine Hamstring Stretch - Lying on back with loops in hands, push foot into elastic center extending leg towards the ceiling.
Back Feet Up Press - Lie on back with loops on feet and elastic center around waist/back. Press feet towards the ceiling and try to straighten legs.
Cat Cow Stretch - Start on hands and knees with elastic center across back and loops in hands. Round the spine by pulling chin into chest and pressing against the elastic center. Hold for a moment or two. Lower into yoga cow pose by releasing spine and pressing belly downward, chin upward and toes curled under. Hold for a moment or two.
How long should I hold stretches?
According to Harvard Health, stretching should be done for a total of 60 seconds on each stretching exercise. That doesn’t mean you have to hold a specific stretch for 60 seconds but rather you should repeat the stretch. Experts agree that for best results you want to repeat the stretches 2-3x for 15-20 seconds each time.
How often should I stretch?
According to a panel of experts at the American College of Sports Medicine, people should stretch 2-3 times per week. Keep in mind that ten minutes of stretching can be enough, but longer is even better!
People who perform a stretch routine first thing in the morning have a higher adherence rate to their efforts. All you need to do is get up just 10-15 minutes early and enjoy the stretch and self-care time.
Andrea Metcalf is a celebrity fitness expert specializing in functional fitness including flexibility training. With over three decades of experience in the fitness world, a best-selling book, and more than 500 media appearances, she is a trusted stretch, fitness and wellness expert.