Stretching keeps your muscles flexible, mobile, and strong. By stretching your muscles and the fascia, or connective tissue, that surrounds them, you can relieve tension, reduce body aches, improve your posture, and more.
When your muscles are tight, they can shorten and weaken. For instance, spending all day in a chair may result in hamstring pain in the back of the thigh, making it more difficult to fully extend your leg or straighten your knee.
Suddenly using tight muscles for a demanding activity can also result in sprains and other muscle injuries. Stretching regularly prevents you from putting too much strain on your muscles and can keep your muscles and joints flexible.
What are the 10 benefits of stretching?
- Wakes up your body: Your body detects changes in muscle length and movement while stretching and prepares to become active by increasing blood flow. Increased blood flow throughout the body causes you to feel more awake throughout the day.
- Increase blood flow: According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching can boost blood flow to all body areas, including the brain. Healthy blood flow is important, especially in the morning after a full night of sleep. Adequate blood flow improves focus and sharpens the senses.
- Improves flexibility: Stretching allows your muscles to move more effectively, improving your range of motion and flexibility and reducing the resistance on your muscles during exercise. Stretching helps restore neural connections between the brain and muscles, improves coordination, and allows you to modify your technique to keep your workout movements flexible.
- Prevents injuries: Warm-up stretches reduce your risk of injury by prepping the muscles for peak performance before a strenuous workout and reducing the risk of damaging the structures and fibers of your muscles. If you start exercising immediately without warming up, the portions that are still locked or stiff are most vulnerable to injury. Increased blood flow to the muscles can also help lessen soreness after exercise
- Relieves aches and pain: Releasing muscles that get tense due to prolonged sitting or other activities can provide relief from stiffness and pain. Stretching also promotes joint surface circulation, which reduces arthritic discomfort. Because stretching reduces lactic acid buildup, relaxes muscles, and allows blood and energy to move without getting “stuck,” it also prevents cramps.
- Protects your joints: Your joints are surrounded by connective tissue and have muscles linked to them. Doing range-of-motion exercises for your joints (knees, hips, and shoulders) can help relieve stiff muscles and help protect your joints.
- Eliminates lactic acid buildup: Lactic acid build up, especially after vigorous strength training or high-intensity interval training, can cause discomfort and fatigue. Stretching relaxes the muscles and helps dissolve accumulated lactic acid.
- Reduce stress: Stretching can help relieve the effects of stress on your body. When combined with deep breathing exercises, stretching can help lower your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure, leaving you in a more relaxed state.
- More energy: Stretching first thing in the morning can help you feel energized throughout the day. Experts recommend at least 2 muscle-strengthening workouts per week and 150 to 300 minutes of moderately vigorous cardio per week. Although the guidelines do not currently include flexibility exercises, they acknowledge that stretching is a crucial component of any physical activity program.
- Promotes sleep: Studies have shown that people who stretch on a regular basis fall asleep faster than those who do not.
How to start a stretching routine
While stretching is fairly simple, it’s important to do it mindfully:
- Include it in your daily routine, stretching for 30-45 minutes throughout the day.
- Make sure to set aside a specific time for it (for example, in the morning or before and after a workout).
- Before stretching, perform warm-up exercises such as light walking or jogging for a few minutes.
- Each stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds on each side of your body.
- Begin slowly with a few stretches and gradually increase your capacity over time.
- If your job requires you to sit in one spot in front of a computer for hours, take a break and stretch for 5-10 minutes.
Stretching techniques include:
- Static stretches: Stretch one muscle group at a time until you feel the tension and then hold until your muscle feels more relaxed. When stretching deeply into a muscle group, make sure not to hold your breath but to actively breathe through it.
- Dynamic stretches: Use momentum to gradually increase the range of motion of a joint or muscle. Try these before a workout to get your muscles ready.
How can I avoid hurting myself while stretching?
When stretching, it’s important to use the proper form to avoid risk of injury:
- Don't stretch beyond comfort. Stretch only to the extent that your body allows.
- Don’t stretch if you have a muscle injury. Skip stretching until you have healed.
- Don’t bounce. This can result in muscle/tissue tears.
- Don't overdo it. Avoid stretching the same groups of muscles too much, as this can cause damage.
- Don’t stretch immediately after eating or drinking. This can cause nausea or discomfort.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
10 Reasons Why You Should Be Stretching. https://www.acefitness.org/resources/pros/expert-articles/6387/10-reasons-why-you-should-be-stretching/
10 Reasons Why You Should Be Stretching. https://natforce.org/stretching-has-10-benefits-for-your-body-and-muscles/
15 Important Benefits of Stretching Before, After, and During a Workout. https://www.lifehack.org/794477/benefits-of-stretching
5 HUGE BENEFITS OF STRETCHING: LEARN THE ADVANTAGES OF FLEXIBILITY. https://blog.nasm.org/the-benefits-of-stretching
The importance of stretching: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching#
Benefits of Stretching: https://extension.sdstate.edu/benefits-stretching
Top 10 Benefits of Stretching: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/5107/top-10-benefits-of-stretching/
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