Are you often tired and unfocused during long classes or while studying? Sometimes it seems that no amount of caffeine or sleep can keep me attentive during my two hour classes, so I did a bit of research. It turns out that light, static stretching has positive brain benefits and can increase your focus in the classroom.
Static stretching is generally described as taking a “given stretch” to a point of mild discomfort (not pain) and holding it there for 15-30 seconds. It can increase circulation and oxygen flow to key brain areas. Take a stretching break to help relax your eyes, reboot energy, and increase focus.
When you are seated for long periods of time, you are negatively impacting your physical health. For instance, slouching negatively affects one’s breathing and can harm your spine and lower back. During a long period of sitting, stretching can improve your posture, reduce strain on your back and open your airway.
Remember, not all stretches are suitable for everyone. If you feel any serious discomfort during certain stretches refrain from that stretch. Do not push yourself past your limits.
Stuck in class or an exam? These seated stretches are subtle enough that they should not distract the people around you:
Stretches the muscles between the shoulder blades and back of shoulders.
Clasp your hands in front and allow shoulders to roll forward and stretch out. Lean head forward and arch back. Hold for 3 – 5 deep breaths.
Stretches the wrist and forearms muscles
Typing and writing continuously can put a lot of stress on the hands, forearms, and wrists. Refresh the wrists and forearm muscles by reaching both arms forward and using one hand to gently press the opposite hand perpendicular to the floor and then the sky/ceiling.
Stretches the chest and shoulders
You can perform this stretch seated or standing. Expand the chest and breathe deeply. Simply place your hands behind your ears or head, and gently draw your elbows backwards. Keep the chest open, neck in line with spine and shoulders back. Hold for 3 – 5 breaths.
Here are a few simple and brief stretching exercises to try in your next long study session:
Stretches hip flexor and abdominals
Stand with feet staggered and back aligned with hips. Gently sink down into a lunge with both knees bent and back heel off of the ground. Sink into the stretch but make sure that the front knee does not come extend beyond the toes.
Stretches the hamstring and calf muscles
Square your hips and torso in line with the stretching leg. Keep neck in line with the spine (neutral) and avoid hyperextending the knee of the leg being stretched. Slowly lean forward with a straight back and reach as far as possible toward your knees/chin/toes (depending on range of motion). Do not worry about touching the toes, but keep your foot flexed (toes pointed upward).
Stretches your quadriceps and hip muscles
Grasp one ankle with the same-sided hand and gently pull the heel foot closer to the gluts. Keep the other knee slightly flexed (not locked out), shoulders back, and hips/neck/spine in neutral alignment