About Daily Stretching
We all know we should stretch more often and regularly. We also know that a good stretching routine will improve flexibility and range of motion in the joints. This month, I want to talk about how daily stretching not only improves your physical health but also your mental health.
The Science Behind Stretching
Stretching contributes to parasympathetic dominance within the nervous system, meaning it helps us to feel calmer and more relaxed. It also releases endorphins: neurotransmitters that interact with pain receptors to give us a pleasant tingling sensation.
Stretching reduces the muscle tension, thereby reversing the cycle of tension, then tightening, and pain. Stretching has also been shown to increase serotonin levels — the hormone that helps regulate our mood, reduce stress, and makes us feel good overall— which causes a decrease in depression and anxiety.
Scientific studies have shown that daily stretching leads to a decrease in cortisol levels, known as the stress hormone, by 20%. It can also boost testosterone levels up to 25%. Testosterone isn’t just a male hormone; everyone has it, though some people have more than others. In women, it is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. The testosterone in our bodies helps us to maintain normal metabolic function, bone and muscle strength, and cognitive skills. It also increases the release of dopamine: a chemical that allows you to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation.
Daily Stretching Made Easy
I want to talk about a couple of stretches that I do every day; the first is the power pose. It’s pretty simple: plant your feet hip-width apart, point your chin up slightly, and stretch out your arms with palms facing upwards. Hold this for a magic minute – two if you like – and you’ll start to get that tingly sensation I talked about earlier. Your arms may feel a little fatigued but stick with it for the full benefits.
Another easy stretch I like to do is hold one hand in the other up above my head, and just flex off to one side, changing direction after about 30 seconds. You can even practice stretching at your desk by gently rolling your neck from left to right.
Other areas you may want to focus on are: your calves, your hamstrings (back of your legs), your hip flexors (the pelvis) and quadriceps (front of the thigh). Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also important.
Start by holding a stretch between 15 and 30 seconds. Once you notice that you can hold the stretch for longer move to 60 seconds hold of each position.
What Works For You
It’s all about doing what works for you. So, I want you to explore some stretches and find out what feels good. Perhaps you could set a timer for once an hour to remind you to get up and have a go. It’s a really great opportunity to get more energy into your day – and get a bit of a cheap-fill of endorphins too!