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Here’s Why Stretching Each Day Is the Healthiest Habit You Can Commit to in 2021
It’s okay if you haven’t touched your toes in years. Here’s why (and how!) to get started.
For many of us, the “I should do this more often” list is super stinkin’ long. The trick is to prioritize, and there’s one thing you can do that’ll check multiple goals off your list all at once. Stretching—yes, the simple bending and reaching motions from your gym class days—not only helps you limber up for movement but it also can help ease an achy back, undo the stress of the day, and even improve your sleep. Better yet, anyone can get these benefits, whether you’re a regular stretcher or haven’t touched your toes in years. Here are seven reasons to make stretching the single most important thing you do more often.
Just a few minutes of dynamic stretching—which involves mimicking movements of a sport or activity—can increase blood flow, giving your brain a boost and helping you shake off a mid afternoon slump, says Rachel Tavel, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., author of Prevention’s Stretch Yourself Healthy.
Did you ever accidentally step on something and almost fall? Whether it’s the dog’s bone or a hidden tree root, we’ve all had the experience of our feet or legs connecting with something unexpected. Thanks to the improved balance you get from stretching, you’ll be more likely to remain upright.
Need to unhook your bra? You’ve got this. Stretching gives you a bigger range of motion—and that’s something you need all day long. It’s what allows you to scratch that elusive spot on your shoulder blade, reach that item on the top shelf, and, yes, unhook your own bra strap. “This is particularly important as you age,” explains Tavel, author of Prevention’s Stretch Yourself Healthy. “As you get older, natural processes limit your flexibility, which can eventually lead to joint stiffness and pain.”
Stretching helps sleep come more easily. In addition to helping you to relax, stretching can alleviate some of the problems that tend to keep us up at night. Take leg cramps: If you tend to get them, a few weeks of stretching may reduce their severity and frequency, finds research.
Thanks to improved blood circulation, stretching may help improve the health of blood vessels throughout your body, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease, finds a review of the research. And in other research, done on mice—so not yet ready for prime time with humans—Harvard and Dana Farber Cancer Institute found that 10 daily minutes of stretching resulted in 52% smaller breast tumor growth. (Maybe you’re wondering, “How exactly do mice stretch?” The researchers encouraged the mice to grasp a bar and then lifted them by the tail, putting the little rodents in a stretched position.)
Do you sit too much at work? Okay, so stretching won’t solve your problems with the annoying coworker who’s always late to your Zoom calls. (Some work pains are ever present.) But stretching can address the pain you feel from sitting too much. In one randomized controlled trial, office workers who were taught a series of stretches to do daily reported less neck, shoulder, or back pain than workers who didn’t stretch.
Stretching can seamlessly slide into your wellness routine. “Even if you haven’t logged one minute of physical activity in years, you can start a stretching routine with ease and use it to achieve some of your biggest health goals,” says Tavel.
News flash: Stretching just a few minutes a day can help you soothe stiff joints, melt away chronic stress, improve sleep, and revive energy! And now, with this all-new guide and DVD bundle, you’ll be able to tailor a stretching routine to your lifestyle, wellness goals, and achy body parts—all for one low price.