Stretching is essential to improve your range of motion and keep your muscles healthy. It fights against the process of your muscles shortening as you age, the increased flexibility prevents injury, and it feels really satisfying to boot.
However, the best stretching exercises for beginners can also improve your heart health as a result of the increased circulation promoted by stretching. Research from the University of Milan in Italy, published by Cleveland Heartlab, found participants who did 12 weeks of stretching "significantly improved the health of their blood vessels. Specifically, their arteries were much less stiff and function of their blood vessels got better".
Admittedly, stretching alone couldn't benefit the heart as much as regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. But as a way to fight against and prevent cardiovascular disease in addition to all the other benefits, such as slowing the effects of aging on your muscles, stretching is a great addition to your exercise routine.
Recovery tools such as our best foam roller list are also very effective at improving circulation.
Undoubtedly, not many of us find time to stretch for 15 minutes after a workout, or even on our rest days. However, daily stretching can be done in as little as a few minutes.
Regardless of how much time you have spare, we've dug around the internet and found three of the most popular stretching routines for when you have 5, 10, or 15 minutes available. You just need a bit of space and a mat to get started, like one of our best yoga mats.
Watch: MadFit's 5-minute stretching routine
Canadian fitness influencer Maddie Lymburner brings us a five-minute total body stretch which is perfect for any time of day. Starting at the head and neck, moving down to the hamstrings and hips, this MadFit routine is ideal to drop into your day as a work break, a workout cooldown, or even first thing in the morning.
Watch: Pamela Reif's 10-minute stretching routine
German-born Pamela Reif is one of the most popular fitness YouTubers out there, and her 10-minute stretching exercise routine is ideal to be placed at the end of a workout, or if you have a bit more time first thing in the morning.
This routine includes more shoulder, breath and hamstring work, sparing time for slower downward dog walks and more advanced tabletop reach stretches. This is a more relaxed routine than the five-minute one, set to a beautiful house cover of Iz Kamakawiwoʻole's "What A Wonderful World".
Watch: Tom Merrick's 15-minute stretching routine
Tom Merrick swaps Reif's Mediterranean pier for a blank gym space, but his instruction is nothing less than polished. Taking a full 15 minutes to work the whole body, all of Tom's moves are largely beginner-friendly. He also provides comment on form tips, and why each move is so effective.
The longer run-time of this stretch allows you to hold each move for around 30 seconds, providing time to get a deeper stretch. The end result is a supple, satisfying total-body stretch.
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Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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