Yep, stretching — especially before bed — is beneficial for longevity since it can help you combat stress and sleep better, as well as decrease inflammation and menopause problems (among other things).
Here’s a look at the benefits of stretching before bed for older people (and all others), plus which bedtime stretches are best, as explained by Jake Harcoff, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of AIM Athletic.
1. It Eases Stress
“I’ve noticed that most individuals’ fitness routines lack something essential: a method for controlling the accumulated stress of everyday life,” Harcoff explains.
Unfortunately, today’s world is filled with a variety of stressful situations that drive many people into the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for our fight or flight responses).
The issue is that chronic stress (and lack of appropriate stress management) can cause bodily inflammation, which can have a significant impact on healthy aging (more on this later).
However, simply stretching before bed can help reduce stress. That’s because “stretching has a significant impact on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for digesting, resting, and healing the body,” Harcoff says.
“This is why a mindful stretching practice before bed is an efficient tool for grounding us and blocking the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn helps to promote better health,” he adds.
2. It Can Improve Your Sleep Quality
Getting older also results in a lower quality of sleep, as well as creakier joints and a slowed metabolic rate. According to the National Library of Medicine, growing old is linked to a tougher time falling asleep and staying asleep.
Furthermore, many people find it difficult to unwind before bedtime, especially if they’re excited about the day and their bodies are still in a sympathetic state (i.e., flight or fight mode).
“With all of the stressors we face today, it’s critical to keep our stress under control so that our bodies may rest and repair while we sleep when as much of this activity occurs,” explains Harcoff.
Stretching is beneficial for stress reduction, which means it may also improve your sleep.
“Many sleep experts recommend turning off screens before going to bed and using a mindfulness exercise,” Harcoff adds. “Stretching, in my opinion, excels as a tool for relaxation and mindfulness.”
Another advantage of light stretching is that it can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to relax you.