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How to include stretching in your exercise routine

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Dynamic stretching, combined with a low-intensity exercise routine, can have multiple benefits for body and mind.

Stretching as exercise

Stretching is an activity usually associated with warming up before a workout and cooling down afterwards.

Most people are aware of the benefits of stretching, but don’t think of stretching as a form of exercise in itself.

However, sometimes it pays to slow down a bit; not all exercise has to be about pushing yourself to the limits and breaking a sweat. Here’s how to incorporate dynamic stretching into your low-intensity exercise routine.

How to practise dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching is an active approach that incorporates movement into the stretch – think squats, lunges, push-ups, arm sweeps, high knees, hip circles and leg swings – which take the joints through their full range of motion.

If you’re looking for a low-impact workout, you can build dynamic exercise into a full body routine that will target all your major muscle groups.

The benefits of dynamic stretching include:

  • Improved agility and strength
  • Increased range of motion
  • Better body awareness, balance and coordination
  • Enhanced muscular performance

The case for low-intensity training

In a ‘no pain, no gain’ culture, it’s easy to overlook the benefits of low-intensity exercise, if not to ignore it altogether.

Low-intensity or steady state exercise is any activity that targets 40 to 50 per cent of your heart rate – if you can still talk while you exercise without running out of breath, you’re working at low intensity.

Typical low-intensity exercises are:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Aerobics
  • Light swimming
  • Treadmill
  • Rowing machine
Low-intensity exercise can effectively build cardiovascular endurance, strengthening the heart muscle while keeping other muscles of the body moving, and also enhancing brain and cognitive function .

One of the biggest benefits, however, is that low-intensity exercise is something you’ll practise in the long-term.

Even though high-intensity training produces outstanding fitness and health results, one recent study revealed that it can be harder to stick to if you have injuries, as well as due to plain lack of enjoyment.
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Low-intensity training that incorporates dynamic stretching

You can actually have the best of both worlds by combining the cumulative benefits in the following routines:
  • Yoga - the mindful practice of moving in and out of asanas, or poses, using the breath involves many key dynamic stretches, including lunges, lateral bends and the standing forward bend
  • Tai chi - flowing, graceful movements take you through a full-body sequence of gentle but effective dynamic stretches
  • Pilates - combining static and dynamic stretching while actively contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you’re stretching is the core principle of the practice
  • Body Balance - by integrating yoga, tai chi and Pilates, this is the trifecta of low-intensity, dynamic-stretching activities
These activities are just as easy to do at home as they are to do in a gym class, and can be a great way to start your morning. They don’t always require a lot of time and you can even benefit from ten minutes a day if you schedule doesn’t allow for longer.

Remember to always take time out to rejuvenate your body and mind with some gentle exercise. If you need a little motivation getting started, why not try our 4-week Start moving for a healthier you action plan.