Everyone knows that college can really put your mental state to the test, but the stress of college can also take a physical toll on our bodies. Students hear the same tips about staying healthy on repeat — get enough sleep, eat healthy and stay active, among others. A less obvious tip that could potentially both energize you and relieve you of mental and physical stress is stretching. Although it seems useless and mundane to most, stretching regularly every morning after you wake up and at night before you go to sleep benefits your body and mind. An article from The Active Times supports the idea that this simple action has the power to help you, “stay in shape, become more flexible, and relieve sore muscles. It also helps relieve stress, anxiety, improve digestion, soothe headaches, and improve your overall health.”
Stretching is not only for professional athletes and regular gym-goers. Most people don’t understand that it should be a regular, daily activity for everyone. With the power to make your mind and body feel better, you should be eager to add just a few minutes of stretching to your to-do list every day.
When people think of stretching, their mind immediately goes to exercise and physical activity. The main purpose of stretching is to protect and benefit your body. Before a workout, stretching is important in order to promote flexibility, lower your risk of getting injured and prevent pain or discomfort. The more flexible and stretched out you are before a workout, the easier it will be to do certain exercise moves.
According to Top Fitness Magazine, “When your hips and hamstrings are loose, you are able to get even lower in those squats. More flexibility and rotation in your shoulders will make arm and chest exercises easier.”
Stretching loosens your muscles and increases your body’s mobility so you have a better range of motion while exercising and a lower chance of getting hurt. Between sitting in chairs during long classes or study sessions in the library, walking across campus to classes and sleeping uncomfortably in your dorm or apartment bed, you are at a high risk for experiencing aches and pains in your body during the day.
Stretching can help alleviate this lingering soreness, too. By loosening the muscles in your core, hamstrings, hips and back, stretching will help to balance out the pressure and weight that is put on the different parts of your body throughout the day, and keep your body aligned the way it should be.
The stress that is put on your body everyday can also lead to bad posture. Stretching can help reverse your hunched back and shoulders by increasing the flexibility of these damages muscles and improving your stance and posture. Stretching in the morning will loosen and prepare your body for the day ahead, and stretching before bed at night will release the tension that has built up in your muscles throughout the day and help you sleep more comfortably.
You probably never think of stretching as a way to destress, but it is an easy, quick and effective way to give yourself a mental break. Stretching helps you release tension in your mind and promote relaxation. Regularly releasing this tension from your mind is just as important as releasing the tension from your body’s muscles before exercising.
One way that stretching works to help your brain is by increasing blood flow in the body. Even though healthy blood flow is always important, The American Council on Exercise Fitness says that it is particularly important in the morning after waking up and before you start you day. The increased nutrient and blood flow to the brain that comes from stretching leads to better concentration during the day and sharpens your senses. This also directly impacts your energy levels and makes you feel less tired throughout the day.
After a long, stressful day, stretching before bed not only helps your body relax, but it helps calm your mind, too. According to Dr. Sarah Novotny and Dr. Len Kravitz’s paper, The Science of Breathing, the breathing techniques that naturally come along with relaxing, every-day stretching have been shown destress your mind and lead to deep relaxation. For your best night’s sleep and rare relaxation amid the stress of college life, try adding some stretching into your nighttime routine.
So before rushing out of your room in the morning or passing out in your bed at night, VALLEY recommends that you take a few minutes to stretch it out. You’ll be glad that you did.