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Like many of us in January, I brainstormed some New Year's resolutions earlier this year that I wanted to set for myself. I knew I desired to move my body more in some way or another, but I also knew that in previous years, any resolution that involved working out never came to fruition for me. This year, I wanted to try something new.

After racking my brain, I landed on what seemed to be the ideal fitness activity to move my body — stretching. There was always a part of me that wished to be flexible, and it seemed like a great form of movement for me to get my blood flowing and grant me some peace of mind. Stretching isn’t high intensity, and it doesn’t have to take up a large portion of time, so I decided I would give it a shot.

I wanted to stretch daily, and I did for a few months. There were lull phases in which I’d slack off on my routine, but it was overall a consistent activity for me this past year. During the times I was stretching daily, I noticed varying benefits both mentally and physically. I wanted to share them with anyone who was considering starting a stretching routine of their own. I hope hearing these benefits will inspire you to take that leap and start stretching, because I’m beyond glad that I did.

Mobility

According to Harvard Health Publishing, stretching helps us with our mobility. It keeps our muscles tuned, strong and flexible. If we don’t stretch out our muscles but put them to frequent use, they can grow rusty and not work as well as they have the capability to. Without stretching, muscles can weaken and tighten. When you do decide to use your unstretched muscles, they could be damaged due to the sudden activity. This could lead to a potential risk of not only muscle damage, but strains and joint pain. Stretching keeps our muscles healthy and better equips us to safely move throughout our lives.

Flexibility

This was one of the main reasons I took up stretching as a hobby and form of body movement. I've always wanted to be more flexible, and I've always deemed being able to do the splits a fun bragging right. Stretching will increase your flexibility, which can give you the ability to not only show your friends impressive positions, but allow you to move with full range of motion. While it won’t happen overnight, daily stretching will increase your flexibility with each day you work on it. 

Gives you routine and structure

If you feel like you need more consistency or structure in your life, daily stretching could be a way to implement it. Because a stretching routine can take as long or as little time as you want, it can be done whenever it fits best into your schedule. It can give you something to look forward to, a guaranteed “me moment” that you can fit anywhere into your daily plans. Incorporating the habit of consistent stretching into your lifestyle can give you a sense of structure, all while including the other benefits in this list.

Peace of mind

Your daily stretching routine, as I mentioned above, can be your “me time” — a portion of the day where you let your worries slip away and melt into a world of your own. You can focus on clearing your head and feeling the tingly pull within your muscles, reminding you of all that your body is and can do. You can listen to the sound of your own deep breaths, a podcast, music or whatever speaks the most to you. It is a time that can grant you some peace of mind each day – a sort of meditative practice, if you will.

Personally, I like to stretch in silence and focus on my breathing. It helps me transport myself into my own little world for a while. Stretching isn’t just an activity that can help your physical health, but your mental health, too.

From relaxation to relieving muscle aches and improving physical performance, stretching is a practice that has varying benefits. It’s something that can show you just how much your body is capable of and is a reminder that sometimes you need to take a second to slow down and breathe. Since I've started stretching, it has transformed from a daily to-do task to get my body moving into an activity I can’t wait to do. It’s become a hobby that gives me a sense of both release and relief. No matter if you’re completing beginner or advanced level stretches, I couldn't recommend daily stretching more.

Journalism major at the University of Florida.
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