If you are reading this article, then you more than likely did these things today; woke up, wiped the crust out of your eyes, checked your phone, and stretched. If you did not do at least one of these four things, then you are not human; you are likely a ghost or a zombie. If you did all four, then that’s great. Good for you being an average person in 2017. But if you only did two of the things listed, then I hope the second thing was stretching. It’s something we do often without thinking. It comes naturally with a yawn. But, did you know that stretching actually deserves more than just a quick 3 second extension of our limbs? You would be better off if you perform this task with more intention.
We all know stretching as the thing you do when you wake up. It is a good way to prepare for and end a workout. More than likely, you also associate stretching with increasing flexibility. But stretching is not just for sleepy-heads and athletes. It’s for everyone! There is even a whole practice developed around it. You’ve heard of it; yoga! So why shouldn’t you do a bit of it everyday and reap all of its many benefits? This may be a surprise, but because you’re in STEM, you may need it the most! Here are a few reasons to make stretching a daily activity.
Are you prone to late nights and early mornings of coding? Are you tired of gulping down Red Bull, Monster and 5-Hour Energy drinks? Try stretching! Stretching is a good way to stay awake. It’s no wonder why we do it with such intensity when we first wake up. The more tired you get, the tighter your muscles get. Stretching allows those muscles to loosen and you to feel less tired. After a good stretch you are more alert and prepared for your next task.
Part of why you are so alert is because stretching improves circulation. Blood can flow more easily, allowing cells to grow and organs to function. In case you’ve forgotten, the brain is an organ and as an engineer or aspiring scientist, it’s kind of important for that organ to function at its best! Go ahead and get that blood pumping!
Configuring flight trajectories and building robots can take a toll on the mind and the body. Body tension can result in a negative mind. The blood pumping and muscle loosening that comes with stretching, equates to a more relieved body. Stretching also releases endorphins, your body’s “feel good hormones.” Feelings of positivity are great to start, continue, or end the day with. So reach for your toes and give your body that peace that can turn into peace of mind.
How often do you sit at a computer crunching the numbers? Your muscles work hard every day, supporting your back and enabling movement. Give back to them by stretching. Relieving yourself of muscle tension makes you less likely to hunch your back. Don’t forget to devote attention to your chest and shoulders too. They also help improve posture.
There are other good reasons to stretch, but for us innovators and STEM experts, these are probably the top four. Stretching may even be the most physical activity your muscles get all day depending on your work and school schedule. The best thing about stretching, besides the way it makes you feel, is that it is convenient. You can do it almost any time of day in multiple environments. What good are you to the world without a healthy temple? Look up a few exercises today and give them a try!
Written by: Cynthia M. Sharpe, a May 2015 graduate of NC State University. Cynthia graduated with a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and currently aspires to pursue an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. “As I let my own light shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Cynthia M. Sharpe, inspired by Marianne Williamson