By now you know that stretching plays a major role in your physical health. A study by Harvard University Medical School stresses the importance of daily stretching, claiming that the practice is necessary to prevent joint pain and prolonged injury. There’s a lot of talk about stretching but, beyond taking a few minutes on the mats post-workout to do an Aaptiv stretching class, adding stretching to our day isn’t always top of mind. Within a matter of 24 hours, our day is jam-packed with work, exercise, healthy meal prep, keeping in touch with family and friends, and more. The key to stretching more: multitasking. We spoke to trainers and fitness instructors about the easiest ways to insert daily stretching into our everyday activities (such as getting dressed or even drying off from the shower). Read on as we discuss ten efficient and time-saving ways to get your stretch on!
Seize the Day Stretch
This routine, recommended by pilates instructor Caroline Topperman, is best done while you are still toasty and warm under your covers. “Reach your arms all the way over your head, and stretch out as far as you can go. Make sure you are breathing deeply. Repeat the stretch and, on the second execution, slightly arch your back. For an added bonus point, flex your feet a few times to prepare your legs for the day and to work out any tightness. Your mattress will act like the perfect support for your neck and shoulders. You can do this stretch as many times as you’d like, but three times for ten to 15 seconds each is substantial.”
Give Yourself a Hug Stretch
After you’ve seized the day, lie flat on your back, bring your knees toward your chest, and wrap your arms around your shins like a hug. Then begin rocking from side to side. Next, bring your knees over to the right as you stretch your arms into a T. Then, repeat this on the left side. “This is an excellent stretch for the back and hips, which can be tight after sleeping,” says yoga instructor and fitness trainer Miriam Amselem.
Get Dry Stretch
When you’re drying off after a shower, Kelsey Zamoyski, owner of Defy Therapy & Wellness, recommends using the towel as a prop to aid in your stretching. “Place the towel behind your back to help stretch your shoulder. This is called IRB, or internal rotation behind back, which can help prevent frozen shoulder and rotator cuff injuries,” she says. “Begin by grasping the towel in your right hand and throwing the towel over your right shoulder and down toward your lower back. Next reach behind with the opposite/left hand and grasp the other end of the towel. Pull up and down with the towel, drying the back, then switch hand placement.”
Daily Commute Stretch
According to Amselem, this is the perfect stretch to practice at a red light during your morning commute. “With your hands on the steering wheel, bring your shoulders up to your ears, then release them to relaxation as you ‘plug’ and draw them back and down. This is a good stretch through a long commute, as it releases the tension from the shoulders and neck,” she says.
Side Stretch and Twist
While using your chair at work as a prop, Topperman recommends, “Take a deep breath and reach one arm overhead. Let your body create a nice big arc as you go into a side stretch. Hold this for about 15 seconds, and repeat on the other side. Then, keeping your hips facing forward, rotate your upper body to the right. Hold for another 15 seconds, and repeat to the left.”
Copy Machine Stretch
When you find yourself waiting a couple minutes at the copy machine, try working on your joint mobility. Start by taking each joint through circles to help improve blood flow, circulation, and flexibility. This includes your wrists, ankles, shoulders, and neck. By giving each joint five to ten repetitions throughout the day, you’re maximizing the fluidity, flexibility, and movement to each worked joint.
Getting Undressed Stretch
Try using your belt as a prop, Zamoyski says. “Use a belt to stretch or purchase a stretching strap. Lie on your back with the belt strapped under one foot. Keep the other leg extended out on the bed and relaxed. Slowly bring your leg toward your face, grasping the belt for a deep hamstring stretch, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the leg to the left and right. After, repeat with the opposite leg. This is beneficial for hamstring and glute tightness, which, if not addressed properly, can lead to improper pelvic alignment and back pain. This simple stretch, when incorporated daily, can significantly reduce back pain and the risk for back injury.”
Watching TV Stretch
As you’re watching the nightly news or a guilty pleasure TV show, find a wall and add in your next stretch for the day. Topperman suggests lying on your back with your glutes against the wall, and straighten your legs up to the ceiling. This stretch, while also feeling good on your body, which has been sitting all day, helps to relieve tight leg muscles. If you feel any tingling in your legs, you can bend or even hug your knees to your chest. Hold this stretch for three minutes.”
Brushing Your Teeth Stretch
When you’re brushing your teeth by the bathroom sink, lift your leg and place your foot on the counter. This move will stretch your hamstring. For a deep stretch, try bending your opposite leg that is placed on the floor. To create a dynamic stretch, bring your nose to your knee, making sure to keep your back straight and maintain proper form—it’s OK if your nose can’t reach your knee. Avoid arching your back because this can create tension in your lower back and will not aid in your stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat on the opposite leg.
Before Bed Stretch
Right before you tuck yourself in at night, Topperman recommends adding in one last stretch to your day. “Start by stepping into a wide, low lunge, and watch that your front knee is in line with your heel. Your back leg should be straight out behind you,” she says. “As you find your balance—you can place your hands on your front quads or on your desk for added support—open your chest up to the ceiling. Hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg.”
Work these simple movements into your day for an easy way to incorporate more daily stretching into your routine.