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PSA: Stretching Is a Very Underrated Habit

3 min read

Here's why stretching is an easy and effective habit to add to your routine.
Here's why stretching is an easy and effective habit to add to your routine.

Essential Takeaways

  • From helping you to relax or loosen up after a tough day at the office, stretching is a ritual worth adding to your daily routine.
  • Keep reading to learn what science has to say about the benefits of stretching.

We’ll just say it: In the realm of fitness-related habits, stretching doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Sure, it doesn’t have the wow-factor of, say, training for a marathon, or even the trendy appeal of its related cousin, yoga. But particularly for those of us who have office jobs—or for anyone dealing with stressors on a regular basis (we see you!)—stretching can be something of an unsung hero. And it’s a pretty low-lift habit to adopt, at that.

Stretching can help us decompress from sitting at a desk all day.

You’re probably well aware that staying sedentary at work isn’t doing us any favors. (According to a study analysis cited by the Mayo Clinic, the best way to counteract roughly eight hours of sitting is to engage in about an hour of exercise, along with regular breaks from your desk.) (1)

But beyond the importance of physical activity, it’s worth noting that when we sit for long periods of time, certain muscles (like our hamstrings) are impacted more than others. With that in mind, stretching can help restore balance and flexibility after a day at work—and can have the added benefit of helping your mind relax, too. (2)

Start small to make a big impact.

It can be as simple as taking your vitamins.

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Done correctly, stretching can support your fitness regimen.

Until recently, experts believed that stretching before a workout “warmed up” our muscles and prepared us for exercise. But recent research shows that this actually isn’t the case: In fact, it might have the opposite effect.

Instead, scientists suggest to warm up our muscles before we stretch—and that could be anything from 5 minutes of moderate activity to a full workout. The bottom line is to prioritize stretching for after activity, when your muscle fibers are more pliable. Studies show that over time, stretching might be able to help with supporting connective tissue and range of motion. (3,4)

Stretching might be a good way to release tension.

The mind-body connection is a fascinating thing—often we express our emotional state in physical ways, without even being fully aware. (You may notice, for example, that your stress often manifests as jaw tension or tightness in your neck or shoulders.) (5)

On the flip side, there’s evidence to suggest that when we take steps to help our body relax, our mind might follow. Scientists have found that yoga, for example, may help facilitate relaxation and support overall wellbeing. Pro tip: When things are heating up at work, consider taking a 5-minute breather to stretch things out. (6)

(Just remember to work with a pro if you aren’t sure where to start.)

As with any change to your physical routine, consulting your doc and/or a fitness professional is always a good idea—especially if you’re wondering which stretches can best serve your needs. A physical therapist can help address certain limitations you’re trying to work through, or maybe you’ll opt for a beginner’s yoga class if you’re cool with a more generalized approach. The bottom line: As with any lasting habit, your best bet is starting small.

References:

  1. Edward R. Laskowski, M. D. (2018, May 8). Sitting risks… too much sitting? Retrieved from Mayo Clinic
  2. Hagen, I., & Nayar, U. S. (2014). Yoga for Children… Potentials of Yoga. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00035
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). The importance of stretching. Retrieved from Harvard
  4. Jammes, Y. (2018). Faculty of 1000 evaluation for Daily muscle stretching…skeletal muscle. F1000 - Post-Publication Peer Review of the Biomedical Literature. doi: 10.3410/f.732995210.793546343
  5. Wieckiewicz, M., Paradowska-Stolarz, A., & Wieckiewicz, W. (2014). Psychosocial Aspects of Bruxism:… BioMed Research International, 2014, 1–7. doi: 10.1155/2014/469187
  6. Büssing, A., Michalsen, A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Telles, S., & Sherman, K. J. (2012). Effects of Yoga…A Short Summary of Reviews. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1–7. doi: 10.1155/2012/165410

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