Nowadays, we all sit too much and have too little physical activity and it’s taking a pretty big toll on our health. This can cause quite a lot of problems including muscle soreness and joint and back pain. Most of us work behind a desk stuck on our computer all day long, which ruins our posture and leads to slumping and stress on our back, neck and shoulders. These problems can seriously interfere with your day to day activities, which is why we need to stay more physically active.
In order to treat the pain in their joints or back, people usually take over-the-counter drugs which are harmful and never a long-term solution. Standing desks might help, but recent studies have shown that even they are dangerous for our posture and joint health. Even worse, most of us just don’t have the time to jog or hit the gym. What we do have time for, however, is try a few simple stretches that will boost the lymph and blood flow and your muscle tone and metabolism.
Stretching should be done regardless of your activity level. Here’s what a 2012 study discovered stretches can do:
- Increase muscle power;
- Increase your range of movement;
- Increase your muscle flexibility and extensibility;
- Improve your spine mobility;
- Reduce muscle stiffness and pain;
- Reduce the pain in your joints.
The study also found out that adults need to stretch 2-3 times per week, while older people may need more. Older adults might need more. However, when it comes to stretching you need to follow some basic rules in order not to injure yourself and make matters worse.
There are various types of stretching that work on different muscle groups in your body. Static stretching is done in a static position, where once you feel a pull in your muscles, you hold for 15-30 seconds max. Dynamic stretching is aimed at improving the range and motion of your muscles, while passive stretching is done at rest. This type of stretching is usually done with a resistance bend. Finally, active stretching is defined as holding a focused position with an opposing group of muscles which work together to stretch major muscle groups.
The do’s of stretching
- Hold the stretches for 20-30 seconds;
- Always stretch after a workout in order to reduce muscle soreness;
- Stretch your most tight muscle groups in order to improve their flexibility and reduce pain;
- Always warm up before stretching for 5 minutes – you can walk, jog or use a jumping rope;
- Static stretching will improve the flexibility of your muscles;
- The stretches need to be performed slowly and in a controlled motion;
- When doing stretches, keep a proper posture to avoid injuries.
Don’ts of stretching
- Never stretch painful muscles in order not to make the problem worse;
- Don’t go to the stretches fast to avoid injuries;
- If you’re trying to improve your muscle strength or engaging in sports, avoid static stretching.
The stretches you can see below are recommended by Dr. Marilyn Mofat in her book “Age-Defying Fitness”. She says that the stretches should be performed slowly – if you feel any pain, you must stop the stretch at once.
Begin with the stretches by sitting properly on the floor – your feet should be flat on the floor, your shoulders back and up and your neck aligned with the spine. Start the stretching slowly and hold each of them for 30-60 seconds. Repeat all the stretches between 2 and 10 times per side.
Turn your head to the left until you feel a stretch, then hold and repeat on the other side.
Tilt your head to the right and put your right arm over your head and let its weight help you stretch. Keep the left arm just next to your body or holding the seat of the chair you’re sitting on. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Cross your arms on the chest, then look over your right shoulder while rotating your chest. Hold for the recommended time, then repeat on the other side.
Raise your arms over your head and reach as far as you can. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then relax and repeat again.
Trunk lateral flexion
Raise your left arm up and keep the right next to your body. Now, bend at the waist to the right and reach out with the left arm, then repeat on the other side.
Keep your right foot on the floor and cross the left leg over the right just so the left ankle rests on your right knee. Now, raise your arms up, then fold your body at the hips and try reaching for your toes. Go up slowly, then hold and repeat.
Stand upright and keep your head and shoulders back aligned with the spine. Now, raise your right arm to the level of your right ear and keep your palm facing forward. Bend the arms at the elbow and reach behind your back, then touch your fingers. Hold for 30-60 seconds, go back to the original position and repeat the stretch 2-10 times.
Stand upright with your feet and shoulder-width apart and grab the wall for support. Now, bend your right knee behind you and grab the ankle with the right hand. Pull it up slowly, then stretch your quadriceps as much as you can. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then repeat with the left leg.
Stand next to a wall facing it, then put your hands on the wall at shoulder width. Now, take a step forward with the right foot and bent it a bit at the knee, keeping your left leg behind you. Keep the heels firmly on the floor. Now, press your hips towards the until you feel your calves stretching. Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds, then relax for 20 and repeat the stretch twice.
Lie down on the floor and bend your right knee, raising it in the air with your hands behind your thigh below the knee. Now, bring the knee down to your chest until you feel a stretch, then hold, lower the leg to the floor and repeat the stretch with the other leg.
These 10 simple stretches can be done anytime and anywhere and will relax your muscles and help you move freely again. Try them yourself and you will be amazed by the results!