We’re all well versed on the benefits of stretching, both before exercise and as exercise itself, but finding the time or motivation is easier said than done.
So, we’ve partnered with a yoga instructor and health professional to come up with a time-saving workout that’s possible in the car, giving you less of an excuse to skip on stretching – whether you’re squeezing in a gym session or in the middle of a long drive. It’s been created with drivers and passengers in mind, too.
These stretches should only be performed with the engine off and the car parked in a safe location.
The Simplest Stretch Is The Most Useful For Long-Distance Drivers
Working with Poppy Alexandra, an accredited yoga instructor, our stretches are car-friendly adaptations of poses with widely accepted benefits.
Some are trickier than others, such as the Seatbelt stretch that may require practice before you’re able to connect your hands behind your back, but there are more manageable variations. As with any of our stretches, don’t persist through pain and see a health professional if discomfort continues.
However, even the simpler-looking stretches offer a range of benefits. Take the Roundabouts: although a relatively straightforward head movement, these rotations loosen the neck muscles and cervical spine (housing nerves that control neck, shoulder, arm and hand movement). This stretch is especially useful for drivers on a long run.
In-Car Stretching Helps The Lack Of Upper Body Movement
Other useful poses for drivers spending long periods behind the wheel include the Three-point Turn and Changing Lanes. Both rotate the upper body and target the spine, neck, chest and shoulders.
The lack of leg movement on motorway journeys, due to not changing gear as frequently and cruise control operating the throttle, can also be addressed with the Folding Seats and Cupholder stretches. As with all the exercises, however, ensure you’ve stopped in a safe spot and turned the engine off before trying these.
Getting out the car and fully stretching is always preferred, but our car-friendly poses are ideal if you’re short on time.
Long Stints Behind The Wheel Bring Serious Health Risks
Dr Deborah Lee, of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, outlines the risks of sitting for long periods, and how stretching can help: “Sitting for long periods of time, in the car or anywhere else, carries a number of health risks. Metabolic syndrome (MS), one such risk, raises blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. It significantly increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“Travelling long distances in any vehicle also increases the risk of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in the deep veins of the leg, along with muscle pain, back pain and fatigue.
“To tackle these, the government recommends a 15-minute break every two hours – take this time to get out of the car and stretch. It’s also not advisable to drive for more than eight hours per day.”
The Many Benefits Of Regular Stretching According To A Doctor
There are also benefits of stretching before exercise. There’s the obvious, like improved posture, balance and flexibility, but also lesser-known plus sides – stretching can tackle back pain, improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure and even improve sleep.
Dr Lee says: “Stretching before exercise improves joint mobility and flexibility, and helps minimise additional strain on joints and ligaments. It can also help reduce soreness post-exercise.
“The most common injury from lack of stretching is the hamstring injury, caused when the hamstrings in the back of the thigh become shortened, tightened and stiff from prolonged sitting. This could also happen from sitting too long in the car. A serious hamstring injury can prevent you from walking and can take many months to heal.”
Beyond this, stretching can also remedy stress: “It’s a form of exercise in itself, and exercise is known to lower stress. It stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain, chemicals that give us a natural high and make us feel good. Stretching can relax tight muscles, too, helping us feel more loosened up and calm.”
If you’ve been inspired by the in car stretching routine, but fancy a new car do it in, take a look at our latest car lease deals if you’re considering an upgrade.
Vanarama partnered with an accredited yoga instructor to adapt existing yoga poses and stretches for in-car use, and also spoke with a health professional to cover the benefits of stretching.