Simple Stretches for those Stretched Too Thin

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Stretching is an important part of every workout, but it also has benefits beyond the gym. Stretching improves flexibility, helps maintain a good range of motion in your joints and also relieves stress. Stretching can be done at home, work or on the go. Here are some simple stretching exercises for busy people.

Remember to listen to your body as you stretch and stop if you feel pain of any kind.

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Wrists

Reach your arms out in front of you. Rotate your wrists 10 times in a clockwise direction, then 10 times counterclockwise.

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Arms and Hands

Clasp your hands together in front of your chest at shoulder height. Extend your arms forward until you feel a stretch in your upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat for 30 seconds.

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Arms

Lift one arm in front of you as if to grab something. Then use the other arm to pull the outstretched arm gently across the chest so that the muscles are stretched. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat for another 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat, using your left arm.

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Neck

Close your eyes. Drop your ear to your shoulder and hold for 15 seconds. Roll your chin across your chest to the other shoulder and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat.

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Overhead Reach

Inhale slowly and deeply. Raise arms overhead. Exhale completely and release. Repeat.

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Chest

Bring your arms behind your back and link your fingers with your palms facing inward. Straighten your arms and lift them up until you feel a stretch in your arms, shoulders, and chest. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat the stretch for another 15 to 30 seconds.

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Back

Sit tall in your chair and try to turn to grab the back of the chair while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat the stretch turning to the other side.

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Hips

Cross one ankle onto the opposite knee and sit tall. Then, lean forward from your hips, keeping your chest upright. This stretches the outer hip, which is the reason for many back problems. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat using the other leg.

Tell It to My Heart: The Effects of Emotions on the Heart

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Since ancient times, the heart has been a symbol of our emotions. But, scientists have uncovered a physical link between emotions and heart health.

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What the Research Shows

Science suggests an association among stress, depression, and heart disease. Several studies strongly suggest that certain psychosocial factors such as grief, depression, and job loss contribute to heart attack and cardiac arrest. Stress may affect risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure. Stress may also affect behaviors that increase risk such as smoking, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, and physical inactivity. Managing and treating these conditions is important to reduce your overall health risk.

Our primary care physicians are trained in doing just that.

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Stress and Your Heart

Emotional stress causes a negative chain reaction within your body. If you’re angry, anxious, tense, frustrated, frightened, or depressed, your body’s natural response is to release stress hormones. These hormones include cortisol and adrenaline. They prepare your body to deal with stress. They cause your heart to beat more rapidly and your blood vessels to narrow to help push blood to the center of the body. The hormones also increase your blood pressure. This “fight or flight” response is thought to date back to prehistoric times, when we needed an extra burst of adrenaline to escape predators.

After your stress subsides, your blood pressure and heart rate should return to normal. If you’re continually stressed out though, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover. This may lead to damage of your artery walls.

Although it is not clear that stress alone causes high blood pressure or heart disease, it does pose an indirect risk and also has a negative effect on your general wellness.

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Stress and Your Reactions

You can manage stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Unfortunately, many people deal with stress by smoking, drinking too much, and overeating. All of these unhealthy habits can contribute to heart disease. But using healthy ways to keep your stress under control allows you to better protect yourself against heart disease. Try these ideas:

  • Exercise. When you are anxious and tense, exercise is a great way to burn off all that excess energy and stress. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a swim, or go to the gym for your favorite class. Plan to exercise for 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity, 4 to 5 days a week to relieve stress and improve your heart health.
  • Breathe deeply. Yoga is not only good for your body, but for your mind, too. The meditative, deep breathing done in yoga is calming and relieves stress, especially if you do it regularly.
  • Take a break. When your stress level rises, take a few minutes to escape your surroundings. Spend a few quiet moments alone, read a short story, or listen to your favorite music. Cultivate gratitude. Make a list of what you’re grateful for in your life to focus on the positives.
  • Get together with friends. Social media is no substitute for being with people you love. Create some weekly rituals with your friends. If they live far away, try volunteering or joining a local group of people with similar interests to yours. Research suggests that people with frequent social connections enjoy better protection against high blood pressure.

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Research is ongoing to look more closely at the link between emotional health and heart health. But the existing evidence is consistent enough to prove that you should take its potential effects on your heart seriously. Exercise regularly and keep your emotional health in check, and you’ll build a stronger buffer against heart disease.

To learn more about Heart and Vascular Services at UMC, click here.