A lot of us spend most of our days sitting down, from working on a computer, going on meetings, and eating our meals. Sitting for long periods of time come with several health risks due to the lack of body movement. These include back pain, an increase in blood sugar, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and more. Because humans are meant to be upright, a sedentary lifestyle (including sitting or laying for long periods of time) is linked to anxiety and depression, weight gain, heart disease, and even cancer.
An active lifestyle with lots of exercise is most recommended, but many of us don’t have the time or energy to keep it up. However, adding a few active moments in your day is not as hard as you think. If you don’t have the time for a full daily workout, you’ll be happy to know that the simple act of stretching for ten minutes a day brings a multitude of health benefits.
You may have heard that regular stretching helps alleviate back and shoulder pain, but there are a lot more benefits that come with a daily stretching routine. It helps improve blood flow which boosts nutrient supply in the body, enhances flexibility, reduces pain, and even promotes a better emotional state. If you haven’t decided to take on a daily stretching regimen yet, let us give you a few more reasons why you should.
Stretching reduces stress and anxiety
We all experience stress and anxiety to some degree. While you may think that stress is just a mental and emotional thing, it’s actually a very physical thing as well. When the mind is stressed or anxious, the body reacts by building tension in the muscles. Stretching reduces this tension and lessens the pain caused by stress. When the body releases that tension, the mind follows and you’ll notice yourself feeling a lot calmer.
Stretching is known to increase levels of serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes our mood and makes us feel good in general. Also known as the happy hormone, an increase in serotonin decreases the chances of stress, depression, and anxiety. A regular stretching routine can do wonders to release muscle tension, clear your mind, and drive away the negative thoughts that bring about stress.
Stretching improves digestive health
If you have a sensitive stomach or feel bloated whenever you eat a little too much, you may want to consider adopting a daily stretching practice. Bending the body in different positions provides movement to the muscles in the stomach and intestines that drive food throughout your system. It also boosts the blood flow towards the bowels which can reduce gastritis and inflammation.
Whenever you feel bloated or have other issues with digestion, you may notice that you also feel stressed mentally. This is because the mind and the gut are closely connected. Stretching hits two birds with one stone by improving your digestive health which in turn helps stabilize mental health.
Stretching lowers blood pressure levels
You may think that stretching is just about stretching the muscles in the body, but it also stretches the arteries and blood vessels that flow into those muscles. Arterial stiffening is highly connected to high blood pressure due to the fact that it causes the arteries to overstretch and form minor tears where cholesterol builds up.
Stretching reduces stiffness in the arteries which improves blood flow, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and naturally lowers bad cholesterol levels. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure significantly raises your chances of heart disease. A consistent stretching routine not only helps lower blood pressure, but also boosts heart health.
Stretching decreases and relieves tension headaches
Tension headaches are common to people that work in a desk for most of the day or drive for long periods of time. Stretching improves posture, lessening tension in the neck, head, and shoulder muscles which also helps you avoid headaches from being still all day.
Regular stretching decreases stress in the neck muscles that press on the nerves and lead to tension headaches. It also lessens cortisol naturally, and less stress means decreased muscle tension. This lowers your chances of getting tension headaches throughout the day.
Start your day with these stretches
A consistent yoga practice is the most ideal way to stretch the body, but if you don’t have the time (or desire) for it, five to ten minutes of daily stretching is still extremely beneficial to your overall health. Here are a few simple stretches that you can easily incorporate in your daily routine:
Knees to chest
This stretch moves both your lower back and knees. Bring one knee to your chest while lying flat on your back and holding it in place with your arms or hands. You should feel the stretch on your lower back. Repeat with the opposite leg. You can do a variation of this stretch by bending both knees at the same time if you’re comfortable.
Twists retain your spine’s natural rotation and also promote cellular detox. Raise one of your knees and roll it over to the opposite side while lying on your back. Both your shoulders should be on the floor or mat at all times. Stretch the arm on the same side of your raised knee out to the side, keeping it in line with your shoulders. Slowly tilt your head to face your outstretched arm. This stretch should be felt on the sides of your upper torso and lower back. Take a deep breath and repeat using the opposite leg.
Downward facing dog
Downward Facing Dog is a common yoga pose that helps relieve tension from the back and neck, opens up the chest, and promotes upper body strength. Start with an all fours position, with your wrists parallel to your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Stretch out your elbows and
your legs while keeping your feet to the floor. Your body should form an inverted V. Relax your back and spread your fingers and press firmly down with your palm. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed across your hands.
Neck stretches are a great way to relieve stress and avoid migraines and tension headaches. Keep your shoulders relaxed and tilt your head towards your shoulder. Push your head with your hand for some extra pressure. Push down for as long as it feels comfortable. Repeat on the opposite side.
Shoulders carry a lot of tension that this stretch helps release. Keeping your shoulder blades relaxed, reach one arm towards the opposite side of the body and deepen the stretch with your other arm. Hold this pose and repeat on the opposite side.
Start stretching today!
Reap all the benefits of a simple stretching routine. Apart from all the advantages we’ve listed, stretching also reduces stiffness in the body, decreases muscle pain, and improves posture. Because the mind and body are so heavily connected, relaxed muscles also lead to a calmer mind. Stretching is a simple and holistic way to take care of both your physical and mental health. Start with a simple stretching practice daily and discover all the ways it can benefit your daily life.
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