The Benefits of Stretching

Yes we know, it's that time of year again when advertisements are all over the place for weight loss programs and new year - new you offers that promise to transform lives and somehow allow us to make amends for a couple of weeks of relative excess. 

The truth of course is that a couple of weeks of relative excess are not really the problem. The problem for many people is a chronic neglect of their personal wellbeing over many years, which doesn't really get noticed until the later years when the body's natural ability to repair itself starts to need a bit more active help and support.

The case for cutting back on alcohol and following a better diet is so well documented and so readily available that there's not much we could add here. Another very well documented health benefit is of course exercise and a lot of exposure has been given in recent years to, for example, HIIT programs. But another truth is that a lot of people don’t actually like relatively intense physical exercise. Running up and down the street, dodging vehicles on a bicycle, or the hassle of going to a swimming pool are often not appealing at all.

There is however a lot that can be done, which doesn't require such a commitment but which can make a big difference, particularly to those who have been a little too sedentary of late. And two examples are walking and stretching.

We'll do a blog on walking a bit later and today we'll focus on stretching.

In the context of an overall fitness and training regime, stretching gets a lot of coverage as a part of a pre-warm up and post-exercise program. But the truth is that stretching is a great habit to get into anytime of the day and separate from any other exercise program. 

It doesn't have to take more than five to ten minutes, can be done at home, doesn’t require any equipment or kit and there are dozens of exercises to cater for every age, body type and fitness level. And the acid test is that you should always feel better afterwards, no matter how little you do. Here are some of the main benefits :

- Improves blood circulation

- Increased range of motion

- Decreased risk of injury

- Improved mood

Two resources that give more background on the benefits of simple stretching are can be seen here and also here 

Here are three stretches that I include in my routine every day. I've chosen these because they focus on the health of leg muscles and back maintenance, both of which often require attention to break the habits of a too sedentary lifestyle :

1. Cat Cow Stretch

Take a look at :

2. Leg Stretches

Take a look at :

3. Bridge Stretch

Take a look at :

As with all exercise, start off gradually and gently. Any signs of pain or discomfort may be a warning that too much or the wrong exercise is being done and which could be a sign of a deeper problem, for which medical or specialist attention should be sought.

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