You wouldn’t exercise without stretching first, so why don’t we do the same for physical jobs?

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Businesses are now understanding the importance of operator safety and the positive influence this has on their profit, which is creating a shift in safety culture. This is seeing safety standards being met, greater use of PPE at workplaces and a desire from those involved in the businesses to protect their employees. As this continues, people look for alternative ways of prioritizing safety and this is where the importance of stretching is becoming recognized.

When we think of the reasons for stretching, one of the first things that is likely to spring to mind are sports or physical activities like running or going to the gym. Why? Because these activities are demanding on the body and we recognize that this requires our bodies to operate in ways that are different to our day to day lives. However, when we think about roles in industrial applications these are often filled with very physically demanding tasks which can be easily compared to activities like lifting weights at a gym; yet generally, we have a completely different approach and view of how we should treat our body.

With roles requiring heavy lifting, awkward postures and repetitive motions, the onset of musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) are being observed and injuries are occurring or becoming aggravated because of the work people do. WMSD affects the tendons, nerves and joints and this can develop from a one-time incident or overtime, where a large number of WMSD is being reported.

How does stretching help?

Stretching helps to keep muscles strong, flexible and healthy which has many benefits, both physiological and psychological. When added to daily routines, this can have a very positive impact on people's lives, no matter their age, or the level of physical activity that they participate in. The following are some of the key areas that stretching helps.

  • Increases range of motion
  • Increases performance
  • Increases blood flow – improved circulation helps to shorten recovery time and reduce muscle soreness
  • Improves posture
  • Reduces stress - neck, shoulders and upper back hold a lot of stress
  • Calms the mind
  • Decrease tension headaches.

Implementing stretching at work

Like exercise, it’s important to warm the muscles up before getting into anything. This helps to reduce the chance of the muscles being tight and injuries from occurring. This can be a walk, light jog, or jumping jacks which help to get the muscles warm the heart rate up. Once warm, then you can begin stretching. Depending on what type of work is being carried out, this will determine which parts of your body are used more frequently. Find stretches that incorporate the muscles that you use for the task, whether it's your legs, abdominals, back, chest or shoulders.

Stretching doesn’t need to be time-consuming or interfere with the workday. Incorporating these in morning team talks can be a great way to connect as a team, go through important notices and ensure that everyone is ready for the day ahead.