By Matt Evans
Do you wake up feeling a little bit sore and stiff every morning? Us, too. You can eat to reduce inflammation and get better joints (and we strongly recommend the best fish oil supplements and best supplements for joints) but sometimes, muscular pain creeps into our lives, especially as we get older.
Stretching is a mandatory practice if we want to feel healthy and be able to move well. Stretching lengthens our muscles, increasing our healthy range of motion so we can move more freely. When we're still for long periods of time, for example in bed, the muscles can become tight due to lack of use, especially if we sleep in an awkward position. Stretching can loosen them up.
Stretching also guards us against injury. If we move too quickly, or strain our tight muscles, they may become torn or damaged, Stretching keeps us strong and limber, preventing any muscular damage. Our muscles naturally shorten as we age, reducing our range of motion and making injury more likely – so stretching is essential to keep us nice and young.
YouTuber and fitness guru Jeff Cavaliere, once a physical therapist for the New York Mets major league baseball team, is naturally a big advocate of stretching. He recommends the following four stretches to do each and every morning:
These stretching exercises are perfect to fix tight hips, aching shoulders and bad backs, the most common complaints of soreness and tight muscles. The first move stretches out the hip hinge and back, as you attempt to touch the floor without engaging your hamstrings, as if you were performing a Romanian or stiff-legged deadlift.
The next move is a deep squat, which we're big fans of at Fit&Well because of the way it loosens up your hip flexors and engages lots of muscles at the same time. Studies have found that holding this position is not just a sign of great fitness and hip mobility, but it can also help you avoid lots of the issues of a sedentary lifestyle, which translates to a longer life according to Brazilian researchers.
Lunging hip flexor stretches and rotational stretch with a stick or broom, targeting your shoulders, glutes and lower back, complete the arrangement. With nothing but a mop or broom handle, Cavaliere shows us four dialy exercises you can use to dramatically improve how your body feels – it takes just a few minutes to perform.
A report from the American Journal of Public Health found "optimal mobility, defined as relative ease and freedom of movement in all of its forms, is central to healthy aging".
The study found a lack of mobility affected your quality of life, making everything more difficult – from walking down the street and grabbing a cup of coffee to intense workouts. Limber up and follow the stretches above to feel better, looser, and live longer.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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