What is the Stretch Effect?
By Allison Hoit
Welcome to a New Year! In last month’s Training Corner we discussed changing our perspective on what actually counts towards physical activity in an effort to establish a lifestyle of movement heading into this New Year. My hope is that this column inspires you to establish healthy lifestyle changes through physical activity and generates new ideas to get you moving more. The goal of Training Corner is to provide a broad discussion on topics related to physical activity, health promotion, and wellness for people of all abilities. Monthly columns will leave you with an action tip to start incorporating into your healthy lifestyle right away. Topic ideas that you would like to see discussed in a Training Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous Training Corner discussions have focused on topics like the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle and the importance of breaking up sedentary time with short bursts of activity breaks and/or standing, to name a few. One example is Deskercise! 20 Ways to Get Moving While you Work, which includes exercises that can be performed throughout the day, even from behind a desk.
In addition to Deskercises, another form of a break from desk mode that can be very beneficial to your health and productivity is stretching. Have you ever held a stretch for a few seconds, taken a deep breath, and instantly felt rejuvenated? This is what I have termed, the stretch effect.
Aside from making sure that we break up sedentary time with short bursts of activity, it is also important to be mindful of our posture when in the same position for a period of time. For those that work from a desk, you might find that your neck and shoulder muscles get tense from typing and having a fixed gaze on your computer screen. By the afternoon, you might be getting tired and more likely to slouch in your chair or slump over to one side. All of these negative side effects can be the result of prolonged sedentary time.
It is important to practice good posture in order to keep your spine strong and stable. When your body stoops or slouches it causes your muscles and ligaments to work harder to keep you balanced, which can result in secondary conditions such as fatigue, back pain, and headaches. It is especially important to maintain good posture in a seated position. Remember to choose a chair that allows both your feet to rest flat on the floor while keeping your knees level with your hips, sit with your back firmly against the chair, stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling while tucking your chin in slightly, and keep your shoulders relaxed, avoiding elevation, rounding, or pulling them back. The key to a healthy back is to practice good posture at all times while incorporating a stretching and strength training routine into your exercise program.