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Stretching to Relieve Stress

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,

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