Ever since my first PE class in elementary school, I’ve heard plenty of good things about stretching exercises, but I didn’t take them seriously back then. When I turned 30, I started experiencing pain in my back from time to time. No medicine that I took would help me, so I had to look for other solutions to this problem. That’s when I decided to conduct an experiment and incorporate stretching into my daily routine. I’ve been stretching my muscles for 10 minutes a day for a month and now I can see some unexpected changes in my body.
Especially for NY Searchs, I’d like to share the results I experienced after this experiment and I really hope to encourage our readers to follow my example.
My stretching routine:
- Head-to-knee bend: Sit down to the floor with your right leg extended to the side, your left knee bent, and the sole of your left foot near your inner right thigh. Bend to your right side and grab your right foot with both hands. Hold for 60 seconds, then switch sides.
- Frog pose: Sit down to the floor with your feet below your buttocks and your knees wide apart. Keeping your feet on the ground, raise your buttocks and walk your hands forward along the floor as far as possible. Allow your legs to separate until you feel a stretch in your thighs. Hold the pose for 2 minutes.
- Cobra pose: Lie down on your stomach. Stretch your legs back and place your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Lift your upper body off the floor by straightening your elbows. Hold the pose for 2 minutes.
- Downward-facing dog: Place your hands and feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Keeping your arms and legs straight, hold the position for 2 minutes.
- Seated spinal twist: Sit down to the floor and extend both legs in front of you. Bend your left knee and place your right elbow on it. Put your left hand on the floor behind you and look over your left shoulder. Hold for 60 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
The results I’ve got:
8. I started sleeping better.
Back pain wasn’t my only problem before the experiment. I also had some pretty annoying sleeping issues. Insomnia, troubled sleep, feeling exhausted right after waking up — these words were well-known to me. But I didn’t really expect that stretching could help me get a good night’s rest.
It turns out that stretching before bed can relieve muscle tension and prevent sleep-disrupting cramps. When there’s nothing to disturb you at night, the quality of your sleep is improved and you feel more refreshed in the morning. So no more chamomile tea for me, stretching is the best remedy!
7. I finally feel my own body.
Of course, stretching is the perfect way to get a great body. But that’s not the point here. For me, stretching exercises have become a way to get my body back.
When you sit at your desk all day long, you literally don’t feel your legs on your way home from work. That’s how it was for me. But when I started stretching, I realized that my body needed my attention more than I actually thought. This better body awareness that developed as a result of the stretching allowed me to continue stretching in a smarter way, working on those muscles that were weaker and needed to be toned up.
6. I feel less sluggish.
I used to have trouble staying awake during my long, dragging day of work. Around midafternoon, I felt so sluggish and lethargic that all I could do is try to think of a place where I could take a nap safely, while my boss was busy with other things.
Stretching right at my desk for 10 minutes a day helped me significantly increase my energy level. I don’t feel lazy anymore. On the contrary, my productivity at work improved and I’ve even adopted the habit of taking a walk during my lunch break. Goodbye to my midday fatigue!
5. My back pain has gone away.
The constant pain in my back is what made me start this experiment. I had always heard that stretching helps heal and prevent lower back pain by strengthening the muscles and reducing the risk for muscle strain. Surprisingly, it was true.
As a repetitive sitter, who practically has no time to do a full workout every day, I had to choose something that could reduce the stiffness in my back and return mobility to my glute muscles without being too time-consuming. Turned out, stretching was a great choice.
After a month of doing stretching exercises, I finally feel relieved — and there’s no pain anymore. Besides that, my muscles have become stronger and there are no more knots in my shoulders.
4. My lab results have become better.
Some studies show that stretching exercises also help lower cholesterol and keep glucose levels in check by preventing the hardening of arteries and increasing blood flow to all your internal organs. So I decided to prove this point too.
Before the experiment, I didn’t really care about my health. A lack of regular exercise, poor dietary habits, and sedentary lifestyle — all contributed to my high cholesterol and sugar levels. However, stretching on a routine basis helped me a lot — the results of my blood tests went back to normal.
3. My coordination has improved.
“Stretching can prevent muscle tightness and bring your body back to feeling more balanced,” that’s what I read a month ago. Well, I can’t say that I had some coordination issues in the past — if you sit still in your chair throughout a day, you don’t need to have a perfect sense of balance, right?
However, I felt that something was wrong when I tried to ride a bike a few years ago. I just couldn’t keep it balanced, and it would start to lean here and there over and over again. Today, I just can’t understand why such an easy task was so difficult for me and I’m proud to say that I finally showed gravity who’s boss!
2. I feel less stressed.
When you’re experiencing stress, there’s a good chance that your muscles are tense. This is called psychosomatics. In theory, this sounds pretty sensible, but I would have never thought that stretching really works better than any sedatives.
I’ve already mentioned that my productivity at work has improved. But it didn’t just happen because of the energy boost. Stretching has also helped me calm my mind and return my sense of well-being. This mental calm has actually helped me feel relaxed and work with a clear mind, without any annoying or negative thoughts.
1. I don’t feel cold all the time.
You probably know that stretching increases the blood supply to your muscle tissue. However, I personally had no idea that this benefit would concern not only my muscles, but all of my internal organs and body parts too.
Without moving too much, I used to always feel cold, especially in my hands and feet. Whatever I did to warm them up didn’t work in the long run — my palms were freezing again after a few minutes of exercising.
A stretching routine has allowed me to enhance the transportation of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the whole body. Now, this better circulation helps me keeps my temperature normal in all of my body parts naturally.
How often do you stretch your muscles? Do stretching exercises help you feel better? Share your experience in the comments below!
Illustrated by Ekaterina Gapanovich for NY Searchs.com