WFH? Aging Joints? Active Lifestyle? You Need To Start Stretching Now
Wherever you are in your fitness journey, you’ll benefit so much from incorporating stretching into your routine—and here are workouts you can do and classes you can take
It’s easy to shrug off the need for stretching, whether you’re an active individual or someone who just wants to start trying to be more fit.
Before and after a jog, you’re in such a hurry to start running or go for a bite afterwards that stretching almost feels like a chore. Stretching before swimming? Ridiculous! You see your friend stretching before a friendly competitive badminton match? You feel like they’re taking things too seriously.
But these backwards attitudes towards stretching is not helping anybody—especially not yourself, since stretching is actually such a useful habit that comes with cumulative effects as you age.
There are tons of benefits to stretching, and the benefits and uses of this activity—and the kind of stretching that you may need—vary from person to person.
Stretching can counter the negative effects of extended working from home and desk work
Working 8-10 hours straight in front of the computer has become a norm for many, especially during the pandemic when many employees transitioned to a work-from-home setup. When we work from home, we’re less conscious about staying seated and hunched in front of our laptops and PC all day, we’re less invested about improving the ergonomics of our workspace, we’re less conscious about the way we sit improperly and crane our necks for hours on end, and there’s little standing up for breaks because there are no co-workers to invite us to get merienda.
Because of these bad habits, it’s easy to develop bad posture and pain in our backs and necks. Sitting all day also tends to tighten our hamstrings and weaken our gluteal muscles, which can lead to muscle strains and tearing of muscle fibers when sudden bursts of energy are required from us such as tiptoeing to reach a high shelf or running after our dog who slips out of the gate.
What’s even more frightening, according to Yale Medicine, many medical research has also found prolonged sitting to be linked to increase risks for diabetes, poor heart health, weight gain, depression, dementia, and multiple cancers.
To prevent these scenarios, Dr. Eric Holder, a psychiatrist who specializes in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Orthopedics & Rehabilitation recommends stretching or moving every 30 minutes during a long work day. In fact, stretching habits while working will not only prevent your risks for diseases and weaknesses, but help can also help boost the flow of blood and oxygen to your muscles. Back In Motion Health Group says that the increased circulation to the soft tissue during stretching can result in a natural spark in your energy levels. Think of it as natural caffeine.
For a quick 5-minute stretch for your back and neck when you’re working, check out these easy stretches from Back Intelligence.
For something more sustainable, incorporate a short stretching routine into your schedule after a long work day. This 15-minute daily stretch routine from Maddie Lymburner of MadFit will do so much for your body and help you release all those tight muscles after a full day of desk work.
Stretching protects our mobility as we grow old
Everything changes as we age. Our metabolisms go slower, our energy goes down, and our soft tissues naturally weaken and deteriorate, which can drastically affect our mobility. And mobility is such an important part of our lives as it helps us do everyday things and prevent serious accidents such as falls, which is the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide.
But the reality is, difficulty and decreased mobility is not just something older people experience. In fact, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine estimated 19 million people in the US reported some mobility difficulty, most of them aged 50 years or younger.
If we want to preserve our muscle health and slow down the degrading of our tissues and mobility as early as possible, this is where stretching comes in. Stretching is a very low intensity alternative to other high-impact exercise such jogging or sports, which means even the elderly or those with little to no physical activity can safely perform it with little risk of injury.
Stretching also comes with cumulative benefits, meaning that the more you incorporate it into your daily routine, the better it can help maintain the range of motion of a joint and relieve recurring pains in different parts of the body.
Stretching also improves coordination. Back In Motion Health Group emphasizes that stretching helps our muscles work better, providing us with enhanced balance and coordination. This will help prevent fall accidents and shooting pain when doing sudden movements.
If you want to know more about how to integrate regular stretching into your routine, you can also ask the experts at Onelife Studio, a chain of Pilates and physical therapy studios in Manila. Their promise: “If your primary goal is to get healthier, be free from aches and pains, and to look and feel good, then we can confidently say that our program works!”
What we love about Onelife is they can tailor fit their regimen to whatever your needs are. But if you’re looking for a personalized stretching program, they have a Physio-led Stretch for as low as P800 per session that can help you address your body’s unique needs. Check out their Physio-led Stretch and other health packages at onelifestudio.com.
Stretching prevents (and helps heal) injuries
More than 10 million sports-related injuries occur in the world every year. Those who run are susceptible to hamstring injuries, many of those who play basketball suffer from Achilles tendonitis, and even those who just casually play badminton or go biking can suffer from muscle pulls and strains if they stretch before and after a workout.
“For athletes and active individuals, stretching is most important as warm up and cool down exercises. Especially with training, stretching prepares our muscles, tendons, and ligaments for a strenuous body workout as well as relax the muscles after rigorous exercises,” says SFO1 Yasmin S. Verzosa, a licensed physical therapist registered in the Philippines and acting chief of the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Unit of the Regional Health Services, Bureau of Fire Protection - National Capital Region.
Ronan Capili, a national coach of the Philippine Skating Union and a biking enthusiast agrees with SFO1 Verzosa and emphasizes the importance of developing a good habit of stretching both before and after engaging in physical activities or exercises.
“In almost every advice book from any adult, stretching is always included. Personally, I only have one angle in advocating for it: it helps keep you away from injuries. As an athlete, you will want that,” he says.
Because of the pandemic, many have also started becoming more invested in workouts and physical activities no matter their age. It’s the cold truth but older people who start exercising or becoming more active later in life can be more susceptible to injuries from even the most basic and lightest load.
“The best way, in my opinion, to understand its benefit is to take note when you hear about older people who have joints or body parts that ache from doing small and simple movements. Compare them to those that do morning walks and runs and do their stretches to finish their morning routine. And as someone, who is approaching my middle age in life, I can feel my body change and with it, the need to take care of it more and add more effort. So take my word for it, stretching helps. Whether you're a non-exercise person or a seasoned athlete. You will thank yourself for it,” said Ronan.
Stretching is also not just important in the prevention stage. If you’re unlucky enough to be injured, stretching will also go a long way in your recovery. In this case, working with a physical therapist will not just help you recuperate from an injury, but also help you strengthen your body so it does not happen again.
Myranda Griebel, a physical therapist from Preferred Physical Therapy adds: "Many times, when we are injured, the muscles around the injury site tighten up as a protective response. By stretching these tight muscles out, pain and soreness can be alleviated.”
If you need professional help with dealing with an injury or some pain or discomfort from your sports or physical activity, Physioworks Physical Therapy Clinic is one of the leading rehabilitation facilities in the metro. They have amazing doctors and physical therapists to help create a recovery or strengthening regimen for you.
Stretching can decrease physical, mental, and emotional stress
The benefits to stretching is not just all physical. In fact, it is also good for our mental health and emotional well-being as it has been found to relieve stress.
“Stress is carried in different parts of the body, including the neck, back, and shoulders. Studies show that stretching stimulates receptors in our brain to slow down the production of stress hormones. It’s also helpful in releasing hormones and neurotransmitters like endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin, which helps reduce body pain and enhance our mood,” says SFO1 Verzosa.
Since stretching is such a common recommendation for stress relief, many people will take to yoga in order to find relief.
While many will argue that stretching and yoga are two completely different disciplines, the lengthening and muscle blood flow that comes with stretching is a significant part of yoga, as well. This is why many people also find the same mental and physical benefits from doing both. In fact, it’s always nice to switch things and try different things around so you’re more motivated to stay active.
Vinyasa Yoga, for example, is a great type of yoga that incorporates active and restorative stretching. The most well-known vinyasa sequence is the sun salutation, a flowing series of lunging, bending, and stretching asanas, and comes in many variations to accommodate all flexibility levels.
If you’re looking for a virtual yoga class or a physical class where you can drop by, Surya Yoga & Pilates Studio in Makati City offers regular yoga classes for beginners and intermediate practitioners.