As an increasing number of states issue new stay-at-home orders to help flatten the curve of this pandemic, millions of Americans are finding themselves shut inside the same four walls every day, all day.
While self-quarantine is the responsible and essential measure to take right now, it can be difficult for those who are used to an active, energetic lifestyle. Exercise is still an “essential” reason to leave the house in many states—as long as a six-foot distance is maintained, of course—but with fitness centers indefinitely closed, some people are moving their bodies less than usual these days.
In fact, as of March 2020, physical exertion declined by 39 percent across the nation, based on a recent poll from Evidation Health. This survey also found that sleep has increased by 20 percent, anxiety has increased by 49 percent and steps have decreased by 26 percent. This is one of the highest bouts of inactivity the U.S. has ever seen, but exercise of any kind is crucial for both physical and mental health in this stressful time.
One low-impact but effective way to move your body in a confined space is to create an at home stretching routine. Get a better understanding of why it’s important to stretch, what equipment you will need, and how to perform each movement. If you can spare 10 minutes, then you can do this routine.
What are the benefits of stretching?
You might be used to a schedule that keeps you in constant motion, but with your typical lifestyle on hold, you’re spending more free time at a computer or looking at a TV, which can harm the body. Over time, the muscles can become atrophied, causing them to lose strength, mass and balance, and impairing their ability to function, according to Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. This can affect range-of-motion and elevate the risk of injuries when you return to normal fitness levels.
Stretching protects the muscles from atrophy because these gentle but dynamic movements loosen and elongate the body. As a result, the joints and tendons become more flexible, blood and oxygen circulation improves and muscular tension decreases, suggests the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
The more often you stretch, the more limber, conditioned and resilient the body will be—even in this season of escalated stress and forced stagnation.
What equipment do you need to stretch?
While many stretches can be performed with the resistance of your own bodyweight, some equipment can deepen the stretch to increase flexion and elasticity in the joints, tendons and muscles. The following equipment can be used to bolster your stretching routine and protect you from overextension.
- Foam Roller: The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy says this tool can relieve pressure on trigger points in the back, shoulders, thighs, calves, hips and neck to ease muscle soreness and enhance joint range-of-motion..
- Exercise Ball: The Journal of Physical Therapy Science says this tool can stabilize the core, neck, spine, lower back and shoulders to help increase mobility, posture and balance during your stretches.
- Resistance Band: SAGE Open Medicine says this tool can boost the load and force exerted on the muscles as you pull the stretch band taut which intensifies the stretch and strengthens all the muscle groups activated.
A 10-Minute Stretching Routine to Get You Started
Below are six full-body stretches to target muscles in the arms, spine, core, legs, hip flexors and other important areas. When stretching, it’s crucial to maintain the right form and technique in order to maximize your results and ensure no joints or muscles are strained. This routine will take you no longer than 10 minutes which makes it a simple, beneficial way to integrate more daily movement while in quarantine.
Targeted Areas: spine, lower back, hips, chest
Lower your back to the floor and pull both knees into your chest. Extend your arms straight out to each side, then rotate your knees over to the left side until your left thigh can touch the floor. The goal is to keep your opposite shoulder—in this case, your right shoulder—on the ground, so if you can’t reach the floor with your left thigh while keeping your shoulder in place, just lower it as far as you can.
Hold this pose for 30 seconds, while keeping the shoulders firmly pressed down. Repeat this stretch on the right side for another 30 seconds. Repeat on each side.
Targeted Areas: spine, quadriceps, calves, shoulders, hips, glutes
Sit with your knees bent, legs parallel, toes flexed and heels pressed into the floor. Position both hands behind the glutes, then draw your shoulders back to raise and open your chest. Lift your right foot and cross it over your left thigh just above the knee.
Maintain the flex in both feet and hold this pose for 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch with the left foot for another 30 seconds. Repeat on each side.
Targeted Areas: shoulders, hips, obliques, spine
Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Raise your left arm overhead with the hand facing inward, then activate your obliques to lean toward the right side. Hold for 30 second and repeat on the right side. Do the same stretch with the right arm. Repeat on each side.
Targeted Areas: spine, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, shoulders
Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine and the knees aligned under the hips. Expand your fingers, press your palm to the ground and tuck your toes to push the lower body off the floor, driving your glutes toward the ceiling and heels toward the floor. Focus on lengthening your spine, pulling your shoulders away from your ears, pointing your elbow pits out and keeping both arms straight. Micro-bend the knees so that you feel a stretch in your back and hamstrings. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat once more.
Targeted Areas: hips, abdominals, chest, quadriceps, hamstrings
Take a lunge position with the right foot planted in front and the left foot behind your body, weight in your heels. Lower the body down until your right knee is bent at 90 degrees and keep your left leg straight.
Lift both arms overhead and raise your chest toward the ceiling, then arch your back and push the hips forward. Keep your left heel down for a deeper calf stretch or raise your heel for a deeper hip flexor stretch. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then repeat this stretch on the left side for another 30 seconds. Repeat on each side.
Move Your Body: Stretch at Home
Now is a great time to finally start stretching your body. Whether you’re still working out or not, keep yourself limber and healthy with this short and simple stretching routine that you can do right in your living room.