Stretching the muscles is one of the best ways to relax. Not only does it promote healthy blood and oxygen flow, it’s a quick way to “wake up” in any setting. Consider it as a morning arm stretch for the entire body – even if you choose to stretch mid-afternoon or any other time of day. It also allows the body to prep itself for any upcoming movements or activities, such as lifting weights or running. As well as allowing it to cool down afterward.
But for those who prefer stretching as their actual form of exercise, there are plenty of opportunities on this front as well. Generally considered to have less impact on the joints (great for those with pain or who are recovering from an injury), these exercises allow for plenty of muscle breathing while toning the body in the process.
To get in a stretching-based work out, consider trying one of the following.
Created by performing a series of poses (which can be tailored to each person’s athletic ability), yoga is a slow-paced way to stretch even the least-used muscles. When taking a class, many teachers even ask which body parts are sore or need extra attention, allowing them to create a custom class tailored to your specific needs at the time. However, don’t be fooled, just because yoga can be gentle doesn’t mean it won’t provide a serious work out. Advanced sessions can create some serious muscle tone and balance (which works the body’s core). Start slow to get a feel for how it works, then continue and advance your yoga-based skills for an enjoyable way to stretch while working out.
Barre and Ballet-Based Courses
Whether or not balancing is your thing, a ballet-inspired exercise class can create a gentle way to tone the muscles. Generally performed with a chair (or actual wall-mounted bar), these courses allow you to do leg and arm lifts in a variety of difficulties. Check with your local gym or test out a DVD course to get the same results. And if you’re really on the fence about it, try a short YouTube version first for a free, no-obligation way to see if this is the method of exercise for you.
Another version of balanced-based exercise is that of Pilates. Essentially, it’s an alternative form of yoga, with the added help of a bar or machine. Get started by finding lengthening poses and working to find balance. Newbies can start small while the most experienced of them all can create incredible and gravity-defying poses. Because it works by using the body’s own weight, you can avoid lifting too much weight or even having to tote around additional equipment. It’s an exercise that will lengthen and tone the body, but without adding on too much bulk or muscle mass.
Old Fashioned Stretching
Not ready to opt for one of these new forms of exercise? Just plop down and stretch. Right in your own living room. This is the easiest way to find out what hurts, and to keep it from hurting the next time around. You can hold poses for as long as you feel necessary and give extra time and attention to the sections that are the most sore. And if you need a little help, consider asking your doctor or trainer about which stretches you should be doing the most. A quick Google search can also provide you with a list of moves to reach obscure sections of the body, or just different ways to reach the same place.
Muscles tighten on a daily basis; it’s just something that happens with ongoing activity. In order to loosen your body (while gaining some exercise in the process), consider these proven muscle-based regimens.