Updated: May 24, 2022
Stretching is often taken for granted, but it’s one of the best things we can do for our bodies. It’s important for all of us, especially those of us with desk jobs or who sit for long stretches (pun intended), to stretch regularly throughout the day. Sitting for hours on end can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds, and especially our digestion. Even just a few minutes of expanding and lengthening our muscles does wonders to promote gut health, clear our heads, and boost energy. Best of all, it’s free and can be done anywhere! If you have trouble remembering to stretch every few hours, try setting a reminder on your computer or phone. Here’s why stretching feels so good:
Stretching, and movement of any kind, stimulates the gut and promotes intestinal activity by increasing blood flow to the muscles in the digestive system. Movement massages our food along the digestive tract, relieving constipation, bloating, and gas.
Relieves stress and anxiety
Stretching helps to relax tense muscles that come from stress by lowering levels of the harmful stress hormone cortisol. We all hold our stress in different parts of our bodies. Notice where you tend to have problem areas – areas that are tight or even painful to the touch. Common problem areas are the neck, shoulders, lower back, and stomach.
Lowers blood pressure and breathing rate
Keeping your muscles flexible naturally lowers blood pressure. Breathing slowly and deeply from your diaphragm triggers the body’s natural relaxation response, and slows your breathing rate. You have control over this response, which is pretty neat. The benefits of stretching are multiplied when coupled with intentional breaths, breathing deep into the stretch and exhaling upon release. The two together are a powerhouse of feel-good endorphins.
Creates a greater sense of well-being
A good stretch gets your blood flowing and increases your energy levels. It also has the power to calm the mind, provide a mental break, and give your body a chance to recharge.
Helps you become more aware of your body
When you’re stretching, you’re more naturally focused on the muscles and parts of your body that are being stretched. You notice which muscles feel tight and how those muscles might feel relieved after a good stretch. Stretching helps you be in the present moment, which has tremendous benefits for mental and emotional health. Stretching even helps some people sleep better.
Simple, stress-relieving stretches can be done anywhere. You can also try stretching for 5 minutes in the morning just after getting up. I’ve noticed that I feel more energized and grounded when I do this. Start slowly, don’t overdo it, and if you have any pain, stop right away.
Great stretches for gut health
Hip circles - with your hands on your hips, make large, slow circles in a clockwise motion 5 times, and then counterclockwise 5 times.
Arms above the head: reach up to the sky, look up, gently bend slightly to one side and then the other, take a deep breath, and relax. Repeat a few times.
Knees to the chest: Lie down on your back, bring your knees to your chest and give yourself a gentle hug. Roll slightly to one side and then the other, remembering to breathe deeply.
Check out this video for some gentle movements you can do at home, the office, or anywhere!
Which stretches help your digestion the most? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, please share with others who might benefit!