Stretching is an important part of healthy living: benefits range from increased flexibility and mobility to better athletic performance and decreased risk of injury. A regular stretching program has been part of my daily routine for more than 30 years. I’ve had minor back problems ever since I was a young adult, and twice daily stretching exercises have most likely helped save my back again and again.
And who better to teach us the importance of stretching than our cats? Have you ever seen a cat get up from a nap without thoroughly stretching first?
Stretching is actually an instinctive activity: most people stretch without having to be reminded before they get out of bed. It appears that our bodies naturally protect us from injuring ourselves by moving too fast after a period of inactivity. Depending on your age, and what kind of physical condition you’re in, you may find that even getting up from being seated at your desk for a long period of time will result in aches and pains unless you stretch first.
There are multiple benefits to stretching:
- Improved circulation. The increased blood flow to the muscles removes toxins, and can help speed up recovery from injuries.
- Better posture, balance and coordination. Stretching prevents muscles from tightening up, and the increase in flexiblity provides better balance.
- Stress relief. Tight muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders, are often a by-product of stress.
- Increased flexibility. Do you remember a time when you could touch your big toe to your nose? For most of us, those days are long gone. While stretching may not restore the level of flexibility we had as a child, it can go a long way toward making ordinary tasks such as bending down to tie your shoes easier.
- Ease lower back pain. Tight muscles in the lower back, hamstrings, buttocks and hips are the most common causes of lower back pain. I can attest to the fact that a regular stretching routine is key to maintaining good back health.
Let your cats remind you to make stretching a regular part of your daily routine. Your body will thank you for it.
Do you have a regular stretching routine?