5 Stress-Relieving Stretches You Can Do Anywhere
by Catherine Santino
Feeling stressed? You may be a lot more tense than you realize! Everyday stressors — like taking care of kids, sitting at a desk all day, running to and from meetings, etc. — can really take a toll on our bodies. So, it's important to take time to release tension by performing stress-relieving stretches, even it's just for a few minutes a day. Stretching can not only help relieve sore muscles and benefit you in the gym, it can help you regain control of the moment and find peace of mind!
The physical and mental benefits of stretching are vast and often overlooked. According to a recent study, daily stretching improves blood flow and supports the development of new blood vessels. Basically, it gets your blood moving, which can yield benefits similar to exercise: a clearer mind, better sleep, and reduced risk of disease. Properly stretching your muscles can also improve your flexibility and range of motion in the gym, so you can perform exercises more effectively with a reduced risk of injury.
And the best part? Stretching doesn't need to take up much of your day at all! Here are five basic moves you can do any time and anywhere (even at your desk). Remember to concentrate on your breath as you complete these movements.
1. Neck Stretch
We may not always be aware of it, but our necks do a lot of work throughout the day! To give your neck some much-deserved TLC, tilt your chin down toward your chest to stretch out the back of your neck. With each inhale, slowly move your chin from one shoulder to other. You should feel a nice stretch on both sides of your neck.
2. Lower Back Bend
We hold a lot of tension in our lower backs. But thankfully, even the simplest stretch can bring relief! You can perform this stretch from a standing or seated position with your feet flat on the ground. Simply place the palms of your hands on the small of your back and gently tilt backward, looking up. Hold for 10 seconds. Slowly inhale and exhale, falling deeper into the stretch as you exhale. Just make sure you don't stretch so far that you feel pain!
3. Seated Spinal Rotation
Your spine is one of the most fragile and fundamental parts of your body — so it could use some attention every now and then! While seated, cross your arms over your chest and place your hands on opposite shoulders. Now keep your hips facing forward and twist your upper body, rotating your shoulders to one side. Hold for five seconds, breathing deeply. On your next inhale, return to center and then switch sides.
4. Shoulder Extension
Busy day lifting kids and grocery bags? Give those shoulders some love! To begin, stand up and clasp your hands behind your back. Next, gently lift your arms away from your body until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Don't worry if your hands don't touch — just reach as far back as you can and raise your arms slowly.
5. Hamstring Stretch
Last but not least! Give your hamstrings a well-earned break with this great move. While in a seated position, stretch your right leg out in front of you and place the sole of your left foot on the inside of your right thigh. Make sure your hips are facing forward. Now lean your upper body as far as you can over your right leg so that you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 10 seconds, breathing deeply. With each exhale let your upper body fall a tiny bit further into the stretch. Then switch legs.
These stress-relieving stretches can be done at work or at home and only take a few moments. If you make them part of your regular routine, you'll be on your way to feeling better (and more energized) in no time! As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.