Stretching is often used by athletes to improve flexibility and prevent injuries but it can also be beneficial for ordinary people too! Even if you don’t work out, incorporating stretching into your daily routine could be beneficial to your health, from boosting your mood to helping you sleep better and more!
Here are 5 science-backed benefits of stretching.
Improve your flexibility
Perhaps the best known argument for stretching regularly is to improve your flexibility. Regular stretching, repeated for a minimum of 6 weeks, can help to significantly improve your flexibility long-term. This is especially important as you age as flexibility tends to decrease over time. Stretching can help you to maintain your range of motion and prevent injury.
If you’re short on time, research shows that simply holding a static stretch for 30 seconds at a time can improve your flexibility. In fact, researchers found that more than 30 seconds doesn’t give you any additional benefits. That means you can fit it into your busy schedule and not worry about not doing enough. Why not try stretching during your lunch break or before bed?
Boost your mood
Regular stretching can also have a positive impact on your mood. A Spanish study of workers at a logistics company found that just 10 minutes of stretching exercises after work helped to lower anxiety and reduce feelings of exhaustion. At the same time, it helped to raise the workers’ levels of vitality and improve their mental health and general health in just 3 months!
It can be especially beneficial to introduce regular stretching into your routine if you spend a lot of the day sitting down. Desk-based jobs can lead to muscle stiffness, particularly in the spine and buttocks. Lower back pain is also a common workplace injury that affects a whopping 35% - 90% of all professionals.
A Brazillian study of call centre operators found that 10 minutes of stretching exercises a day decreased muscle discomfort among the participants. Interestingly, the study also found that the group had lower levels of fatigue and performed better in memory tasks than the group who took an ordinary 10 minute rest break.
Surprisingly, stretching can also influence your sleep cycle too. Research shows that stretching exercises like Pilates can help to improve sleep quality. This is especially important if you struggle to sleep due to stress or discomfort.
Stretching the calf and hamstring muscles immediately before going to bed can also reduce the frequency and severity of leg cramping at night, especially in older adults.
There is some evidence that regular stretching could help you to manage pain, either as a result of illness or the stresses of day-to-day life. A study of lower back pain in nurses, for instance, found that a stretching exercise program 3 times a week helped to significantly improve their pain scores. More than 80% of the participants noted improvements in their condition.
A 2019 study also demonstrated that regular stretching can help to reduce pain for women with fibromyalgia when compared to aerobic exercise. The women also found that the impact of fibromyalgia on their quality of life decreased as a result of the stretching program.
Regular stretching can be hugely beneficial, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle or a desk-based job. Whether you’re looking to improve your flexibility, reduce stiffness or boost your mood, it’s worth taking time out of your day to do some stretching! Just make sure your Zoom camera is off...