For me, stretching usually brings up images of “what we did before track practice” or “my least favorite part of gym class”. These images and thoughts about stretching are common to a lot of people. Often when I mention stretching to my clients they say, “you mean like athletes do?” or “Do I have to go to the gym to do that?”
What a lot of people don’t realize is that stretching comes in many shapes and forms and that there are appropriate routines for people in every walk of life from the life of an active toddler to an elderly grandmother. Stretching can be as simple as a few leg and arm routines that take five minutes or as complex as a yoga routine that takes an hour. Stretching is, in fact, one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body. It relieves tension, helps blood flow (which in turn helps everything in your body work better), breaks harmful patterns from repetitive tasks and helps keep your muscles and skin healthy.
Stretching is especially beneficial in the winter time since many people spend more time sitting during this time of year. In addition, the limbs often become cold with the weather or dry with the furnace being turned on and stretching can help balance this unique winter issue. You can even use this remedy while traveling over the holidays. Many hours in a car can reduce circulation, depress the immune system, and cause anything from headaches to muscle spasms. Stretching can also counteract these situations.
If you are new to stretching I recommend you start with something simple. Find something you love. Do you love dancing, walking, swimming, art, yoga or another sport or activity ? Do you need to sit while you are stretching? Find a stretching routine that fits into one of those categories and start by doing a simple 5-minute routine each day. You can add more to your routine as you feel the need. However, you will be amazed at what just five minutes twice a day can do for you. We have provided an illustration above of some of the very basic stretching moves we use to get you started.