Get The Most From Your Stretching Routine

People trying to find ways to stay active while at home have set up personal gyms and yoga studios.  Setting up an exercise space is a significant first step; the next step is using the new exercise area.  However, before diving into your new fitness journey, there is another crucial step…..STRETCHING!  Most people agree that stretching out tired or achy muscles feels great, but it is usually the first part of our routine that we skip when pressed for time.  Along with the feeling that we don’t have the time, many people are confused about what types of stretching to do, how long to hold a stretch or how often we should even be doing our stretches.

To help answer some of these questions and provide insight into effective stretching, we have put together 5 stretching principles and, more importantly, 10 ways to incorporate stretching into your busy day.

stretching hand
stretching arms overhead at desk

5 Key Stretching Principles You Should Follow

When should I stretch, at the beginning or the end of my workout?  Unfortunately, many of the research studies about stretching give confusing information.  Some experts believe that stretching should come at the beginning of an exercise routine, and some suggest it at the end.  It’s clear that more research is needed, but in the meantime, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your stretching routine.

  • Focus on bigger muscle groups: if you are short on time, choose stretches that focus on your largest muscle groups, such as your hamstrings, hip flexors, low back muscles and chest
  • Choose stretches that are important for the types of activities you regularly do. For example, cross-country skiers will benefit from stretching their hip flexors, while people who spend their days typing at a keyboard might choose to stretch their forearms.  Be sure to ask your physiotherapist if you aren’t sure what stretches are essential for the activities you spend your time doing!
  • Consider doing stretching exercises at the end of your exercise routine or when you have already warmed up
  • Don’t stretch into pain: to get the most from stretching, you must be able to differentiate between a muscle stretch sensation and pain. This difference can be challenging to understand; if you are confused, ask your physio for help.
  • How long should we hold our stretches? Research shows that holding stretches for a long time (60 seconds or so) is probably unnecessary, but there aren’t clear guidelines on the ideal time to hold a stretch.  It depends on the individual and the goals of their stretching routine.  These goals are another topic for discussion with your physiotherapist.

10 Creative Ways to Incorporate Stretching into Your Day

Here are some creative ways to fit your stretching exercises into your busy daily routine:

  1. Do some gentle stretching exercises in bed before starting your day! If you wake up feeling stiff, this can be a great way to make your morning routine a bit smoother.
  2. While in the car, stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic, you might be able to sneak in a few neck or wrist stretches.
  3. You can do most stretches that use a seated position at your desk at work. Take advantage of the time when on a conference call or waiting on hold to fit some movement into a sedentary workday.
  4. If you like to spend your evenings winding down in front of the TV, you can multitask by spending the commercial breaks doing your stretches.
  5. Sign up for a yoga, tai chi, or qi gong class a few times a week.
  6. When cooking dinner, you can squeeze in a few stretches while waiting for the microwave to finish or for water to boil.
  7. A few stretches before bedtime can be a tremendous wind-down routine to release the day’s muscle tension and help to prepare you for sleep.
  8. Use your smartphone to set reminder alarms to prompt you to take stretch breaks throughout the day.
  9. The heat from a hot tub or soak in the bathtub can make stretching exercises much more comfortable.
  10. Involve your kids – set a good example for the whole family by doing your stretch routine with them or asking them to time each exercise.
standing at desk
sitting and stretching
laying down stretching

What Next? How Physiotherapy Can You Help You.

Stretching is an integral part of a balanced exercise routine and can be vital in preventing or recovering from injuries.  However, if you are confused about where to start or what to focus on, make an appointment with your physiotherapist to discuss this topic in more detail and develop a personalized routine.  Your physiotherapist will also be able to provide ideas on how to integrate stretching into your day, depending on the activities you regularly do.

If you have any further questions, contact Innovation Physical Therapy today.  We’re here to help you, “Love Getting Better!”