Flexibility is an essential element of any fitness plan.1 No workout is truly complete without a stretching routine. Read on to learn about the potential benefits of stretching and how to easily add a whole body stretching routine into your current exercise schedule.
Benefits Of Stretching
Stretching supports blood flow to the muscles and flexibility. It’s an essential first and the last step in any workout routine to first prepare your muscles for strenuous activity and then decompress and begin recovery.
But you shouldn’t limit your stretching to your workout time alone. Regular stretching may also lead to a better day-to-day life by supporting:
- Improved range of motion
- Healthy posture
- Energy levels
It’s hard to argue against the positive outcomes of a stretching routine. But still, some people focus solely on strength training in their exercise routines.
This should never be the case. While strength is very important, stretching your whole body plays a vital role as well. This is true for people of all ages. As Tony Horton knows, full-body stretching routines with plenty of stretching exercises are a key part of any solid fitness regimen.
More On The Benefits Of A Stretching Routine
A full-body stretch helps support the health of people in all age groups. Some of these advantages are well established.
For example, most people know what stretching helps with muscle tightness. After intense exercise, soreness is soon to follow. The muscles you use in your workout can become extremely sore in the 24-72 hours after the workout is complete.
A post-workout stretch may help mitigate this discomfort, supporting a quicker recovery and an enhanced athletic performance.3
Of course, not everyone is interested in achieving peak athletic performance. Many just want to stay in good shape as they age. If that sounds like you, a whole-body stretching routine may be just what you need. Regular stretching exercises help with issues specific to seniors including:
- Joint Discomfort – Stretching your muscles may help ease discomfort and stiffness in sore joints.
- Risk of Falling – Stretching helps support stability and balance. This might lessen the likelihood of an injury-causing fall.
- Poor Posture – Stretching helps to loosen connective tissues, allowing you to stand and sit with proper posture.
- Decreased Mobility – Stretching lengthens your muscles, allowing you to easily pass through your complete range of motion.
- Lack of Energy – A dynamic stretching workout helps support the flow of blood and nutrients throughout your body. This might help you feel more alert and energetic.4
Keep reading to learn how you can get maximum benefits from your stretching routine.
A Full Body Stretch Routine
There are two overarching types of stretching exercises you can do. As you develop your full-body stretching routine, it is important to make this distinction.
- Dynamic Stretching – Repeated movement through a specific range of motion.5 An example of a dynamic stretching exercise is a lunge with a twist or hip circles.6
- Static Stretching – Targeting a muscle group by stretching and holding for a set period.
Static stretching is a more traditional method. The use of dynamic stretching is newer and often sport-specific.7
Here is an example of a static full-body stretching routine. You can follow this example or create your version. Either way, it’s important to target all areas of the lower and upper body.
This routine includes six easy static stretching exercises.
- Neck Stretch – Clasp the back of your head with both hands. Gently press your head forward and down with your hands until you feel a stretch on at the back of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds and release.8
- Shoulder Stretch – With both arms relaxed, raise your shoulders. Slowly rotate them forward in a circular motion for about 30 seconds, and then rotate your shoulders the opposite way.9
- Upper Back Stretch – Bring one arm across your chest. Use your other arm to support and slowly pull your arm further across your chest. Hold this position for up to one minute, and then switch sides.10
- Side Stretch – Sit in a chair and raise your right arm straight up. Slowly tilt your torso laterally until your right hand is reaching towards your left side. Hold for approximately 20 seconds, and then switch sides.11
- Quad Stretch – Standing straight with your hand on a chair for balance, bend your left knee until you can hold your left ankle in your left hand. Hold for up to 30 seconds, and then switch sides. This stretches the quads and hip flexors.12
- Hamstring Stretch – Sit with one leg extended straight in front of you and the other bent with your foot facing inward. Slowly bend and reach towards your front knee. Hold for up to 30 seconds and then switch sides.13
As you improve, you can try to get a deeper stretch each time you perform your stretching routine, but never push yourself too hard while stretching. This can lead to serious injury. Do what feels best for you and slowly work your way to a deeper stretch over time.
Is Yoga A Good Alternative To Traditional Stretching?
Traditional stretching and yoga provide similar advantages. Both allow you to stretch major muscle groups.14 Yoga is also great for soothing sore muscles after a workout.
You can also use some yoga poses as an alternative to the stretching exercises listed above. For example, a downward dog is a pose that will give you a fantastic hamstring stretch.15
Pigeon pose, on the other hand, is a great way to maintain mobility in your hips.16 Of course, some countless other poses and stretches help your body in numerous other ways.
Yoga, like stretching in general, may also help to support your overall state of mind. Both yoga and traditional stretching activities are known to contribute to a calmer state of mind by reducing stress.17
Yoga can be a fun way to incorporate stretching into your workouts. This practice not only fosters a healthy body and mind, but it is also a social activity due to the ability to interact in a class format with others seeking the same mindset.
How Often And How Long Should I Stretch To Improve Flexibility?
In the most general sense, the more often you stretch, the more flexible you will become over time.18 Also, there is extraordinarily little risk of injury in most stretching routines(unless you push yourself too hard). Because of these two factors, you could complete stretching exercises every day if you wanted to.
More commonly, people have trouble finding enough time to stretch. So, what is the minimum amount you should aim for?
Try to stretch at least three times per week. Those stretching routines should be at least 20-30 minutes long.19
Stretch For Your Good Health
Stretching is extremely important. Not only is it an essential element of a general fitness routine, but it’s also very helpful for seniors. With little to no need for equipment, stretching is easy to perform. By structuring a whole body stretching routine, you can support good mobility and overall wellness.