Activity is often recommended as the antidote to too much sitting. That will never change. But what is essential to safe movement, lower risk of injury, strong muscles, and independence?
Regular stretching helps ensure your muscles are ready when called upon. Including stretching into your daily routine can reduce the risk of injury, limit joint pain, and keep muscles flexible and healthy.
Muscles become short and tight without stretching. They get weaker and are unable to extend all the way, boosting the risk for pain and strains.
For example, let’s say you’re in a seated position for the bulk of the day. That shape keeps your hamstrings, the muscles at the back of your thigh, in a shortened, tight position. Ultimately, this will lead to a decreased ability to fully extend your legs and straighten your knee.
That doesn’t exactly make walking easy.
Now imagine you want to go for a brisk walk, play tennis, or have to hurry across the room? Those tight muscles are at major risk of injury.
Spending some time every day to stretch can improve mobility by loosening up your muscles and encouraging flexibility. Stretching your lower extremities like calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors are most important. Performing movements for your upper body are also recommended.
Now that can seem like a lot every day. So, it might make sense to split your days, taking 4-5 days per week to focus on the lower body while hitting your upper body 2-3 times.
Before getting started, you’ll want to warm up a bit so there is blood in your muscles and they are ready to go. A light walk for 10 minutes will accomplish this.
One stretch to try to keep your hamstrings flexible involves sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Slide your hands down your legs until you feel a burn. Hold it or 30 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position.
Daily stretching can lead to less joint pain, improved mobility, and greater independence over time if you stick to it. But consistency and patience are key. You won’t notice the benefits after a day or even a week, but in time, your dedication will pay off.