On average, adults sit for nine hours a day, which isn’t hard to imagine when you factor in sitting in the car, bus or train on the way to the office, before you proceed to sit for your 9am-5pm shift. We aren’t saying you should quit your day job but incorporating stretches and movement can have significant positive shifts on your physical and mental health. At Tilly Money we are always championing for women to become more financially literate and confident, but money is best used when you’re healthy, fit and well.
Making sure you’re holistically wealthy includes being on top of all areas of your life, including your financial wellbeing as well as your physical and mental wellness. Office work requires us to sit in a forced, cramped position for continual hours of immobility and as a result of poor posture, repetitive movement patterns and long periods seated, muscles become contracted. When muscles become chronically tight and tense, the opposing muscles become weak and place enormous strain on the joints and structure of the body.
Regular stretching in a balanced manner decreases this unnatural pull on the joints, allowing the body to move more freely and effectively in all directions. Aside from keeping us mobile, some of the many benefits that stretching can provide include:
- Decreased pain and stiffness in the body
- Improved range of motion
- Reduced risk of injury
- Enhanced blood flow and circulation
- Reduced wear and tear on the joints
- Better posture
- Reduced mental tension and – with breathing techniques – decreased anxiety and depression
Types of stretching
If you’re new to stretching, there’s more to it than simply being able to touch your toes! There are several stretching techniques that are appropriate for different goals and situations, and knowing which technique is best for you is important to achieve our desired outcome. Most of these can also be performed in the office, even some when you’re seated at your desk.
- Static Stretching:
Static stretching is the most common form of stretching, describing a stretch that is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period: usually 10 – 30 seconds. It’s considered both safe and effective for improving flexibility.
- Dynamic Stretching:
A stretch that is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly – usually 10 or more times. Dynamic stretching is a preferred method for athletes and sports enthusiasts before an activity as it benefits their functional range of motion and mobility in their chosen sport or activity.
- Passive Stretching:
Passive stretching is very similar to static stretching but using the aid of some sort of outside assistance such as a strap or another person.
- Active Stretching:
Active stretching is once again similar to the static and passive techniques, however, this style involves using the opposing muscle to hold the stretch. For example, contracting the quadriceps muscles to lengthen the hamstring muscles.
- PNF stretching:
Also known as hold/relax, PNF stretching involves putting a muscle into a stretched position, holding for a few seconds, then contracting the muscle without moving for a few seconds, then relaxing into the stretch again, coming deeper into the stretch.
- Myofascial Release:
It’s important to understand what the fascia is before discussing this type of muscle release. Fascia is the tough connective tissue surrounding every cell of the body from head to toe like a three-dimensional spiderweb. Before realizing what the role of the fascia was, it was thought that our skin, muscles and bones were responsible for keeping us upright. In reality, the fascia is doing most of the work.
Injury, trauma, inflammation and poor posture can cause the fascial system to tighten, putting pressure on nerves, muscles, blood vessels, bones, organs and the brain. This can result in a wide variety of symptoms including pain, restriction of movement and structural misalignment, impairing both daily function and athletic performance.
We can use a foam roller to release the fascia, helping to ease problematic areas of pain and dysfunction. Foam rolling should be ideally done before static or dynamic stretching to improve the tissues’ ability to lengthen during stretching activities. However, it can be used at any time before or after activity. Slowly roll the targeted area until the most tender spot is found, then try and hold and relax for 30-60 seconds.
5 Stretches to perform at home or in the office
Start by trying these five exercises below. These are safe and suitable for anyone to do, no matter your current level of flexibility.
- Neck Stretch: Look side to side, then up and down.
- Spine Mobility (Cat/Cow): Position yourself on your hands and knees. Round your spine into flexion, pulling in your abdominals and pointing your forehead down towards the pubic bone. Then extend your spine into extension, arching your back and lifting your head towards the ceiling.
- Hamstring Stretch: Lie faceup on the floor and pull one leg towards your chest, keeping both legs straight. If this is too much, use a strap or band to hold your leg up.
- Lying Cross Over: Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Rotate your knees from side to side like windshield wipers. Perform this motion continuously or hold each side for 10-30 seconds.
- Hip Flexor Stretch: Stand in a lunge position. Tuck your pelvis and reach the same side arm to the ceiling.
Try to spend 10 minutes every day moving and stretching. Always check with a health professional if you have an injury to make sure the stretch is right for you. Warm-up your muscles before stretching by using a foam roller, taking a short walk, or performing some dynamic stretches such as hugging your knees to your chest, kicking your heels to your bottom, or jogging on the spot.
When stretching, don’t force it – only hold to a point of mild discomfort.