Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or infection. It helps to protect the body from further damage and to promote healing, however chronic inflammation can be harmful, and has been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
Stretching daily is one way to reduce inflammation. It helps to improve blood flow and to remove waste products from the muscles. Stretching also helps to lengthen and relax the muscles, which can reduce pain and stiffness.
Here are some of the ways that stretching can reduce inflammation:
- Improved blood flow. Stretching helps to improve blood flow to the muscles. This brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and helps to remove waste products. Improved blood flow can also help to reduce inflammation.
- Reduced muscle tension. Stretching helps to lengthen and relax the muscles. This can reduce pain and stiffness, which are both associated with inflammation.
- Increased range of motion. Stretching helps to improve range of motion in the joints. This can make it easier to move around and can help to reduce the risk of injury.
- Reduced stress. Stretching can help to reduce stress levels. Stress can trigger the release of inflammatory hormones, so reducing stress can help to reduce inflammation.
To get the most benefits from stretching, it's important to stretch daily. I would recommend at least 10 minutes per day but if you can make time to get 20-30 minutes of stretch time throughout your day you will feel the benefits much faster. You can stretch at any time of day, but it's often helpful to stretch when you wake up, after a workout, before bed.
When stretching, be sure to hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds. You should feel a slight tension in the muscle, but you should not feel any pain. If you feel any pain, stop stretching immediately.
Here are some basic stretches that you can do to reduce inflammation:
- Neck stretch: Tilt your head to the right side and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Shoulder stretch: Reach your right arm across your body and place your hand on your left shoulder. Gently pull your right arm towards your chest and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Back stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend at the waist. Reach down towards your toes and hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Hamstring stretch: Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you. Bend at the waist and reach towards your toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Quadriceps stretch: Stand behind a chair and hold onto the back of the chair for balance. Bend your right leg behind you and grab your right foot with your right hand. Gently pull your heel towards your buttock and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
If you have any health concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. By incorporating stretching into your daily routine you’ll feel better physically and your mood should also increase as you release stress, tension and decrease the risk of harmful inflammation.