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Can stretching help with stress

Most people would assume that stretching is only necessary when going for a run, playing sports, lifting weights, or after becoming injured. However, stretching at least once a day may contribute to physical and mental health. Daily stretching has been shown to increase range of motion, flexibility, and blood flow to muscles; it also reduces stress, among other benefits. When we don’t stretch, muscles become shorter and tighter, which can lead to a reduction in range of motion and flexibility or even increase risk for injuries. Our everyday activities — including driving, sitting in a chair, or looking at a screen — can also cause the muscles to tighten and cause pain. Below are ways that stretching benefits overall health, along with tips to begin a daily stretching routine.

Physical Health

It’s no secret that stretching can physically improve our well-being. One study found that males at the age of 28 had a range of motion of 13.9% in their shoulder joint compared to 85-year-old males, whose range of motion was only 5.2%. This loss of flexibility and range of motion can be caused by aging or, again, by the everyday tasks that we perform, which leave muscles feeling tightened due to inactivity or the position of the muscle.

But the good news is there’s an easy fix to combat stiffness from daily activities: Another study found that stretching five times per week for six weeks showed an increase in range of motion up to 2.4 degrees per week in each muscle group. Importantly, the participants stretched only for a duration of 15, 30, and 60 seconds. Small bouts of stretching like this have been shown to increase blood flow to the muscle and cartilage, helping to increase the delivery of nutrients to the muscle and reduce muscle soreness.

Mental Health

Not only does stretching help with physical health, but it also seems to give a boost to mental health. Everyone experiences stress to some degree — some more than others. Stress can cause muscles to become tense, which in turn causes muscles to tighten, leading to discomfort and chronic pain. Stretching reduces the muscle tension, thereby reversing the cycle of tension, then tightening, and pain. Stretching has been shown to increase serotonin levels — i.e., the hormone that helps stabilize our mood, reduce stress, and overall makes us feel good — which causes a decrease in depression and anxiety.


When learning how to stretch, it is very important to not rush yourself and instead ease into stretching.

  • Start by stretching two to three times per week and hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. When comfortable with these durations, you can move to a 60-second hold in each position
  • Students from the Department of Health and Exercise Science at CSU have developed an exercise video library via the Center for Healthy Aging’s THRIVE Project. Visit here for my easy, introductory full body stretch video.
  • A quick Google search can bring up multiple websites and YouTube videos for daily stretch routines with different types of techniques. When looking at these websites, be sure to focus on static and dynamic stretching techniques and avoid ballistic techniques, like this, which increase risk for damage to the joints and soft tissues. Dynamic stretching is when you use movement to stretch the muscles. For example, high knees is a great way to dynamically stretch your hamstrings. Static stretching involves stretches held in place for a period of time, like this standing hamstring stretch.
  • Finally, trust your body and what it is telling you. Regardless of these tips, your body is the only thing that is going to know what is working for you, so be sure to listen and stop stretching if discomfort or pain arises

Now that you have some background knowledge and tips, get out there and start stretching.

Most of us experience a good deal of stress in our daily lives, especially us Wayne State students during exam time. There never seems to be enough time in the day! And that stress builds up without our realizing it, creating physical and mental stiffness. Stretching can be an effective strategy for preventing and alleviating stress. One way that it does so is by lengthening the muscles to relieve tension.

How to improve your flexibility with stretching exercises

Stretching is a fundamental way to improve your overall health and fitness. By incorporating a regular flexibility program into your exercise routine you can:

  • improve circulation
  • improve range of motion
  • improve posture
  • decrease joint stiffness
  • decrease muscle tension
  • improve performance
  • improve your ability to relax
  • find time for mental training, such as visualization

A complete stretching routine can take as little as ten minutes. The best time to stretch is after you have warmed up. The best time to perform your flexibility routine is after exercise. This is when your muscles are the warmest and when you can use the relaxation. Focus on stretching the muscles you use the most during your specific exercise or sport.

Proper stretching technique

  • Perform balanced stretching. This means stretching the muscles on both sides of your body evenly. Don’t stretch one side more than the other.
  • Avoid over-stretching. Never stretch to the point of pain or discomfort. You will feel slight tension or a pull on the muscle at the peak of the stretch.
  • Go slow! Always stretch slowly and evenly. Hold the stretch for about fifteen seconds and release slowly as well.
  • Never bounce or jerk while stretching. This can cause injury if a muscle is pushed beyond its ability. All stretches should be smooth and slow.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Flexibility exercises should be relaxing. Deep easy, even breathing is key to relaxation. Never hold your breath while you stretch.

Stretching can be done almost anywhere. Here are a few quick ways to relax your body and spirit:

Upper back stretch:

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent or sit up straight.
  • Clasp your hands in front of you, arms parallel to floor.
  • Keep your head relaxed.
  • Round your upper back. Push hands forward, palms away from body.
  • Hold for twenty to thirty seconds, breathing steadily. Repeat two to five times.

Neck stretch:

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent or sit up straight.
  • Drop chin to your chest.
  • Place hands on back of head. Gently push down until you feel slight stretch.
  • Hold for twenty to thirty seconds, breathing steadily. Repeat two to five times.

Towel stretch for legs:

  • Find a dish or hand towel to help you stretch.
  • Lay on your back, abdominal muscles tightened, knees bent, and feet on floor.
  • Extend one leg toward ceiling. Keep knee slightly bent.
  • Place towel behind back of leg or ankle (not behind knee), holding both ends.
  • Pull towel toward your chest until you feel a stretch.
  • Hold for twenty to thirty seconds, breathing steadily. Repeat two to five times,

Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety through Stretching

Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, things have no doubt gotten a lot harder than before. There’s no telling when or if life will go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. This is one of the rare eras in human history wherein the future is uncertain for everyone.

You probably spent the last months exploring all options to keep yourself and your family financially healthy. Hopefully, you’ve been giving the same level of attention to your health as well. If you haven’t, now is the best time to assess your physical and mental well-being — specifically, if stress and anxiety are plaguing your waking moments.

How Stress and Anxiety Harm Your Health

The American Brain Society calls chronic stress “the silent killer” because it leads to conditions that could develop into something more dangerous. For example, it is typical for a person who’s under stress to experience headaches and body pains. But if the stress persists, there could be another possible underlying cause: irregularity in the blood flow, which results in oxygen and nutrient deprivation in some areas of the body.

Here are some of the potentially serious conditions that medical researchers have linked to stress and anxiety:

  • Digestion problems
  • Weak immune system
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

It’s important, therefore, to manage your stress and anxiety as quickly as possible. One way to do this (without depending on medication) is by stretching.

What Does Stretching Do for Your Body?

Harvard Medical School has published many papers and articles touting exercise as a remedy to stress and anxiety. People who exercise experience behavioral changes that are boosted by chemical production in the brain. It works this way:

  • Exercise, in general, lowers adrenaline and cortisol — stress hormones that trigger the body to go into a “flight or fight” mode.
  • Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are responsible for the relaxed and positive outlook people have after completing a rigorous exercise routine or achieving their running goals (also called “runner’s high”).
  • Exercise loosens the muscles, encourages deep breathing, and improves blood circulation. These directly combat the physical symptoms of stress, such as painful back muscles, a clenched jaw, taut facial muscles, dry mouth, and tense posture. According to Harvard researchers, putting the body in a relaxed state through exercise can send calming signals to the mind. This approach can break the stress cycle and improve mental fitness.

Stretching is the ideal type of exercise because everyone can do it regardless of their fitness level. It’s a good start for those who don’t exercise, and those who already exercise a lot can still find satisfaction in it.

When you stretch, you:

  • Make your body and thoughts slow down. You can enter a meditative state and proactively reduce your mental stress.
  • Move all muscle groups, from your face to your extremities.
  • Discover the areas in your body that are tense and need more stretching.
  • Improve your balance, posture, and spinal alignment.
  • Become more aware of your mind and body.

The Best Exercise During Quarantine

One of the best things about stretching as an exercise is you can do it anytime, anywhere. With many gyms and fitness centers being closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, stretching is one of the few exercises that are doable in your own home — in your work chair, even.

Dedicate as much time and effort in caring for your health as you do your business. After all, you become more alert, creative, and energized to work when you’re at your peak condition.

Check out this article for 8 Stretches for Your Best Night’s Sleep