You’ve probably heard all about how important stretching is after a workout, but did you know there are tonnes of reasons to incorporate some light stretches into your daily routine?
The feeling of a good stretch is one of life’s most simple pleasures. Whether it’s loosening up a well-worked muscle after exercise or stretching out after a good night’s sleep, there’s no feeling quite like the release of a stretch. But, according to physiotherapist and member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association Jennie Hewitt, stretching does a lot more than simply making you feel good – and there are heaps of reasons why it should be part of your day, regardless of your age or mobility.
“As we age, muscles and tendons decrease their elasticity which may result in reduced flexibility and increased risk of injury,” Jennie explains. “Muscular stretching can help to maintain range of motion in joints, mobility and physical independence.”
Our bodies are made to move. Jennie explains that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle and joint tightness, so even if you don’t exercise in any other way, stretching is worth considering. On the flipside, if you are more active or carry out regular exercise, stretching may assist you to keep participating for longer.
“Like all exercise, there are safe and unsafe ways to stretch. You should stretch only until you feel a gentle pulling sensation in the relevant muscle group,” says Jennie. “For optimal results, hold the position for 30 seconds, then rest, then repeat. Of course, we want balance – so if you stretch one side of the body, also stretch the other.”
Daily stretching doesn’t necessarily mean setting aside a block of time every day. You can gently stretch your neck muscles while letting warm water beat down on your neck in the shower, or stop for a moment while climbing the stairs to stretch your calf muscles. Our personal favourite? You can ease your lower back into the day by stretching for a short while before you get out of bed in the mornings. Just 5-10 minutes every day can help, says Jennie.
“Stretching should feel good, not painful,” Jennie says. “If you have an injury or persistent pain you need specific advice about which stretches are suitable for you. A comprehensive assessment with your physiotherapist will allow you to have a personalised, safe stretching program.”
- Incorporate gentle stretches into your daily routine
- Work only within your pain-free threshold
- Lie, sit or hold on to something, to ensure you are safe while stretching
- If you experience pain, stop and seek advice