Stretching is often taken for granted, but it’s one of the best things we can do for our bodies. It’s important for all of us, especially those of us with desk jobs or who sit for long stretches (pun intended), to stretch regularly throughout the day. Sitting for hours on end can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. Even just a few minutes of expanding and lengthening our muscles does wonders to clear our minds and boost our energy. Best of all, it’s free and can be done anywhere! If you have trouble remembering to stretch every few hours, try setting a reminder on your computer or phone to stretch.
Relieves stress and anxiety
Stretching helps to relax tense muscles that come from stress by lowering levels of the harmful stress hormone cortisol. We all hold our stress in different parts of our bodies. Notice where you tend to have problem areas – areas that are tight or even painful to the touch. Common problem areas are the neck, shoulders, lower back, and stomach.
Lowers blood pressure and breathing rate
Keeping your muscles flexible naturally lowers blood pressure. Breathing slowly and deeply triggers the body’s natural relaxation response, and slows your breathing rate. You have control over this response, which is pretty neat. The benefits of stretching are multiplied when coupled with intentional breaths, breathing deep into the stretch and exhaling upon release. The two together are a powerhouse of feel-good endorphins.
Creates a greater sense of well-being
A good stretch gets your blood flowing and increases your energy level. It also has the power to calm the mind, provide a mental break, and give your body a chance to recharge.
Helps you become more aware of your body
When you’re stretching, you’re more naturally focused on the muscles and parts of your body that are being stretched. You notice which muscles feel tight and how those muscles might feel relieved after a good stretch. Stretching also helps you be in the present moment, which has tremendous benefits for mental and emotional health. Stretching even helps some people sleep better.
Simple, stress-relieving stretches can be done anywhere. You can also try stretching for 5 minutes in the morning just after getting up. I’ve noticed that I feel more energized and grounded when I do this. Start slowly, don’t overdo it, and if you have any pain, stop right away.
Check out this video for some simple stretches to do at your office or from any chair: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIJjtklBGZE
This week’s blog is a guest blog from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Mass Public Health Blog. It was written by Alison Brill, Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
To check out more blogs from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, visit http://blog.mass.gov/publichealth/.