When was the last time you got up from your desk? Did you go for a walk, grab a snack? Taking regular breaks is such an important part of a workday. One of the most important types of breaks, however, is stretching. If you have an office job, you end up sitting down at your computer desk for hours at a time. If you don’t move those muscles around once and a while, it can eventually lead to greater health problems. I’ll explain.
According to Harvard Medical School, as we sit in a static bent position, it shortens our muscles and tendons. If this position is maintained for too long, the muscles begin to adapt to the short lengths and become stiff and inflexible. Stretching is important to counteract this condition because it lengthens the muscles out. A longer muscle is more flexible because it can extend further without being strained upon exertion. Imagine if you had tight muscles from sitting all day and you went to go play softball after work. If you haven’t warmed up the muscles throughout the day, you are then attempting to sprint or swing a bat with cold stiff muscles. This often leads to strains and increased injuries.
So, what can we do. Well, the key is to implement a stretching regimen into your daily workday routine. It may only take 5-10 minutes and can count as a great mid-morning or early afternoon break. However, before stretching, it is important to warm up the muscles first. This can be accomplished by simply going for a brisk five-minute walk outside or around the office building. Once warm, the muscles can be stretched more effectively. Focus on the large muscles the most such as the quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back, neck, and shoulders. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Depending on your medical history, it might be wise to ask your doctor about specific stretches or areas to avoid just in case an existing condition could be affected negatively by stretching.
Stretching is excellent for preventing injuries, but it also improves blood flow around the body, which should help give you more energy throughout the day. Remember that this is about starting a regimen and should be part of your daily routine. Stretching once every week is better than nothing, but for best results, it is important to do it everyday. Give it a month and you’ll notice you feel looser, less stressed, and more energetic. And that isn’t much of a stretch to say!