We call them “The dog days of August,” those exceptionally warm days we hit at summer’s end when we are inspired to do…nothing. Legend tells us that the reference is actually based on Astrology and the rising of the dog star “Sirius” in Greek and Roman times, but let’s remain focused on the contemporary understanding of this phrase--a period of induced lethargy and inactivity.
My first thought was to seek a contemplative challenge that could be achieved without having to even move our body. But my initial instinct was wrong. While we may not be ready to jog around the track in this heat, there is a way that we can continue to improve our well-being with one universal practice—stretching.
Most people think of stretching as a means of improving flexibility. But stretching can do so much more. In a culture where many of us spend our days hunched over a computer, our posture is surely suffering. Hunching makes our muscles weak. Stretching puts those muscles back to work, strengthening them which in turn will slow the deterioration of posture. In addition, stretching can help to relieve tension in the back, thus aiding us in standing up straight. (Club, 2020)
A typical workday for many of us can be rather stressful. Let’s be honest, we cannot eliminate stress from our lives, instead we must find ways to manage it. Stretching is a tool that can be used effectively to manage stress. Here’s how it works. The generally sedentary modern lifestyle promotes stiffness. Stiffness aggravates stress. Once we make the effort to relax those stiff muscles through stretching, we can tap into your body’s ability to improve circulation, allow oxygen to get to muscles and release muscular tension. This process slows both your heart rate and blood pressure and sends a very important message to your brain…RELAX! (Migala, 2020)
I’m going to mention just one more of the benefits of stretching, which does not begin to address the full spectrum of its health benefits. Stretching can help to alleviate everyday discomfort in both your upper body and lower body. Achy joints have become synonymous with getting older, leading inevitably to chronic pain. 100 million American adults today live in chronic pain. The number is staggering and distressing. Stretching and thereby strengthening the muscles will help to reduce inflammation thereby supporting your joints. That being said, attempting to reduce long-term chronic pain would require knowing what stretches to do and the correct method to do them. Please consult a physician before beginning any new stretching regimen. (Feretti, 2017)
You may break a sweat, but there’s a good chance you won’t. It’s not exercise by our traditional definition, but most definitely falls under the umbrella of health practices. No equipment is required, and the pay off? You may be able to move a little better, reduce some tension, and poke your chest out just a bit more. There are endless resources, videos and tutorials out there on stretching. as well as 30-day challenges that you can follow along with. Find one that you like. Stay safe, cool, and stretch it out…
Club, F. A. (2020, May 14). How can sretching improve my body posture. Retrieved from fitathletic.com: https://fitathletic.com/stretching-yoga-improve-posture-balance/
Feretti, A. (2017, November 17). 15 Deep Stretches To Ease Everyday Aches and Pains. Retrieved from prevention.com: https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20505758/deep-stretches-for-everyday-aches-and-pains/
Migala, J. (2020, August 9). 7 Quick Stretches for Stress Relief You Can Do Right Now. Retrieved from everydayhealth.com: https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/quick-stretches-for-stress-relief/