The Importance of Daily Stretching and Movement (4 Tips to Get Started)
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Daily physical activity helps to counteract the negative effects of sitting or lying down for extended periods of time (yes - stretching counts!). Bonus: Exercise Helps You Destress!
Often we associate stretching with pre and post exercise activity. Or as part of the activity itself, like yoga. We definitely recommend stretching on a regular basis, yet many of us may also benefit from stretching after long periods of stagnation or rest.
We all feel stiff and sore after long periods of watching Netflix, or working long hours in front of a computer. Depending on how the body is positioned at rest, certain muscle groups are affected. Stretching daily keeps the muscles flexible to maintain good range of motion in the soft tissue (i.e. fascia) and joints. It also helps to ensure muscles stay healthy, rather than tight and even 'ropey'.
Why is this important?
When you do start to move or use your muscles for rigorous activity without a daily stretching regime, the tightened and shortened muscles actually become weaker and do not perform at full capacity due to reduced flexibility, often resulting in joint discomfort or dysfunction. It also could result in muscles being overstretched during activity resulting in muscle damage or strains.
This then further exacerbates the issue, because injured muscles provide less support to the joints and other connective tissues, leading to further and frequently repetitive injury. On the flip side, healthy muscles help those with stability and balance problems to avoid falls.
Movement is usually associated with sports or working out. We used to move all the time but our modern world sees us sitting in cars during the commute, sitting in the office and then sitting at home to rest in front of the computer or TV.
There’s often a feeling of guilt yet changing the way we think about movement may help get you going:
Each hour, go for a walk to the water cooler and refresh your glass or head to the bathroom because you’re drinking lots of water.
Take several moments throughout the work day to do some chair stretching, or get up and find an area where you can stretch the body, especially the hips and hamstrings which are the major muscle groups that tighten the most with prolonged sitting.
Go for a walk during your lunch break, or walk to and from work if you can.
Even before heading out the door, do some gentle stretching when you first wake up or before you go to bed.
If you have a family, ensure your children also have enough movement in the day. Kids are back to school, either at home or in the classroom, which means their level of activity has declined. If you have decided to keep the kids at home, make sure to allow for time to move and stretch the body like recess at school.
Bonus: Exercise Helps You Destress!
Stretching and gentle movement can help the body recuperate from stress. Stress results in body tension and short breathing patterns which increases levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). By taking time to stretch alongside deep breathing techniques, the body and mind are able to relax and help the body move out of “fight or flight” mode, also triggering a positive response in the body by reducing stress hormones and increasing ‘happy’ hormones.
We may not be battling a sabre-tooth tiger anymore, yet the body still reacts this way when in stressful situations by fighting or fleeing. What’s different today is that these stressful situations are constant rather than once and a while.
We see many patients and clients come into the clinic for ailments not realizing that they aren’t breathing at full capacity using all of their diaphragm because of this tension due to stress. Supporting the body using massage and chiropractic care, alongside daily stretching and breathing activity, can help the body relax and be better prepared for when stressful situations come up again.
Adding other activities, like restorative yoga, helps reduce stress because it helps the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digestion, energy conservation and slowing the heart rate.
We may feel like there’s not enough time in the day for movement and stretching yet finding the time to do these each day can help us feel better throughout each day, and can also help prevent injury or strains down the road. For more information, check out this blog where we talk about Yoga and Movement Therapy we offer using the Whole Person Method.
Adding these daily practices with a treatment plan from your chiropractor and massage therapist can help your body move optimally, reduce stiffness and tension, improve flexibility, and help reduce stress on the mind and body.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Use of the content provided on this blog post is at your sole discretion.