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Health & Wellness

Stretching: What You Need To Know

June 5, 2014

Our ability to bend, flex and stretch (like many functions we may take for granted now) tend to decline as we age. Your ability to stretch is a classic example of use-it-or-lose-it, which is good news because you can start a stretching routine today. There are plenty of simple, feel-good stretches you can do now – yes, even at your workstation – to maintain and improve your body’s flexibility and mobility. Best of all, there’s no gym equipment required:

  1. Cat/Cow- Sit upright in chair with feet flat on floor. Place hands on knees. As you inhale, curve your spine in while pushing your chest out. As you exhale, curve your spine by rounding up. Repeat slowly for 3-5 breaths. 
     
  2. Lateral Flexion- Sit upright in chair with feet flat on floor. Another option is to do this stretch standing straight with your spine in a straight line. As you inhale, lift your right arm over your head, reaching upward. Lower as you exhale. Repeat on the opposite side. Repeat slowly for 3-5 breaths. 
     
  3. Spinal Twist- Sit upright in chair with feet flat on floor. Gently twist shoulders to the right, placing right arm on back of chair and left hand on right knee. Hold 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side, holding 3-5 breaths. 
     
  4. Forward Fold- Sit upright in chair with knees wide. Gently fold from the hips toward floor, resting hands on floor or shins. Hold 3-5 breaths. Squeezing your tummy, gently pull your torso back upright. Another option is to stand upright with spine in a straight line. Gently fold from the hips with a soft bend in the knees, resting hands along legs or the floor. Hold 3-5 breaths. Squeezing your tummy, gently pull your torso back upright. 
     
  5. Neck Stretches- Sit upright in chair with feet flat on floor. Turn head to the right at 45 degree angle. Gently drop chin down. Hold 3-5 breaths. Return head to center and repeat on opposite side. 

But wait… Before you get started on those tension-releasing neck stretches, learn the facts about two major myths when it comes to how you should stretch.

  • Myth: There’s no need to stretch more than a few days each week.
    Fact: The American Center for Sports Medicine guidelines suggest stretching each major muscle tendon group four times for 30-40 seconds, as many days a week as possible. You never need to worry about stretching too much or too often.
     
  • Myth: “No pain, no gain.”
    Fact: This philosophy does not apply to stretching. Pain is the body’s natural way of telling you when to stop or slow down. That means stretches should be pushed to the point where your feel right on the verge of being uncomfortable and then held at that level of stretch.

Check out a printable version of our full list of workstation-friendly stretches here.

By Carrie Davidson, ACSM, HFS, RYT 200 and Megan Feil

This article was published in Fit News, the monthly online newsletter from UK Health & Wellness' Body Shop Fitness.