Stretching – Healthy Movement

2 March 2022

The importance of stretching

The bottom line is that stretching helps keep us flexible which in turn keeps our muscles healthy and puts less strain on our joints. Flexible muscles allow for healthy range of motion in our joints. Short and tight muscles can lead to muscle damage, joint pain, and stiffness – stretching works to lengthen our muscles, prolonging, and even preventing extreme wear and tear on our bodies.

Our relationship with stretching

A common misconception is that you do not need to stretch unless you are about to start (or have just finished) exercising. Stretching is not just for warming up or cooling down from physical exertion, but a habitual practice for everyone to maintain healthy muscles, joints, and range of movement.

Straightforward tips for stretching

Begin with a mild warm up

Use both static (hold in a still position) and dynamic or active (moving in and out of the position) stretches

Stretch before and after a workout

Begin with mild and progress to moderate exercises

Alternate exercises for muscle groups

Stretch gently and slowly until tightness, not pain, is felt

Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds

The benefits of stretching

  • Flexibility – decreases muscle stiffness
  • Increases range of motion
  • Increase blood flow to muscles – promotes circulation
  • Helps prevent back pain - released hamstrings, hip flexors and pelvis lessen stress on lumbar spine
  • Improves posture
  • Stress reliever – well stretched muscles hold less tension
  • Calm the mind
  • Helps decrease tension headaches
  • Pre-exercise benefits – loose muscle will allow for better performance of activity

Simple stretches:

Cat/cow: On all fours, knees under your hips, hands under your shoulders. Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears and gaze straight ahead. As you exhale, round your spine, tucking your tail under and drawing your pubic bone forward. Release your head towards the floor.

Child pose: (good stretch for the hips, thighs, and ankles) – In a low kneeling position, rest your trunk on your thighs, allow your chest to soften to the floor. Reach your outstretched arms overhead and lay your palms flat on the floor. Your buttocks rest on your heels. Direct your breath into the back of your rib cage, as you exhale, relax your muscles.

Seated neck stretch: Place your left hand on the right side of your head, gently pull head towards the left until you feel a stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Chest stretch: You can use a doorway. Stand in the opening, with your arms up in a goal post position. With half of your upper arm and forearm on the wall, take a small step forward until you feel the front of your chest stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Here is a quick beginner stretching video to get started!

Some useful resources: