If you’re not someone who stretches every day, maybe it’s time to change your ways. “The older we get the more likely we are to be tight and have our muscles pull onto our skeletal structure and throw us out of whack,” says fitness trainer Joel Harper, author of the newly released book Mind Your Body, and creator of the “You” workouts with Dr. Oz. Stretching opens up the body’s muscles, so that there is an increase in blood flow. “When you stretch, you elongate your muscles around the joints which helps to increase the range of motion and in turn helps to avoid injury,” Harper says. Stretching can also reduce stress, improve mood and just generally make you feel better, says Jacque Crockford, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
In terms of how often you should stretch, “I look at stretching like flossing your teeth. Hopefully you floss daily, but also when you have food in your teeth,” says Harper. Stretching is the same, doing it daily will help you feel better, but you can also do it when your muscles feel tight or body feels off. As for finding the best stretches for you, here are eight stretches that don’t require getting on the floor or using equipment. They are easy and effective.
One thing to note, says Crockford, “Do not hold a static stretch if there is pain. This is a sign you are stretching too far and should back off. Stretching may be challenging but should also feel like good tension.”