Many of us lead busy lives. Finding ways to alleviate stress helps us to retain balance and a positive outlook. While stretching may be overlooked by a lot of people, it can be an amazing way to feel better in just a few minutes. Daily activities can tense up certain muscles in the body, especially repetitive or prolonged movements. Those of us who sit or stand for long periods of time usually feel the effects of those positions. Taking a few minutes to stretch daily helps do a number of positive things for both our bodies and minds.
Physical Benefits of Stretching
The physical benefits of stretching are numerous. The motion of gently stretching our muscles instantly helps blood flow through the muscle fibers, and helps to elongate the muscle so it can retain its full range of motion. Movements that limit the range of motion will shorten the muscle over time. Allowing the muscle to lengthen makes everyday movements easier. This can be especially helpful for those of us who sit or stand for long periods of time. Stretching the legs and lower back can really aid back and leg tension, and help to prevent injury.
Mental Benefits of Stretching
Aside from physical benefits there are great mental benefits reaped from the practice of stretching. Stretching releases dopamine in the brain which is the compound responsible for feelings of happiness. It can give a mental pick-me-up to anyone who has a few minutes to spare. Also the physical act of stretching can allow for a bit or mindfulness in the practice of it. Those of us who get caught up in the hectic nature of our lives can take a small break to quiet our minds and focus on how our bodies feel, and tune out the rest of the world for a few minutes a day to recharge. Sometimes the little things can have a big impact, and the practice of stretching is definitely one of them.
Even without working out stretching has an upside. Incorporating a stretching routine into a daily routine is very helpful. Doing a few gentle stretches daily that focus on the larger muscle groups (back, legs, chest) is enough to see a positive difference. No fancy equipment is required. It’s a simple, easy way to perk up the body and mind.
Combining stretching with exercise can also be a good way to go the extra mile. Practices like yoga or tai-chi incorporate stretching into their movements. Both of these forms of exercise are proven to relieve stress as well as help muscles regain their full range of motion. Gentle forms of exercise like these can also be beneficial for those that may have injuries and want to incorporate some physical activity into their stretching routines.
Whether it’s a few minutes a day alone, or in a yoga class with others, stretching can positively impact our daily lives. A little extra dopamine, an increase in blood flow, and relief of muscle tension can help both our bodies and minds with minimal time and effort.