We’ve all heard it so many times “Do not forget to stretch!” Many people know that stretching before and after physical activity is important, but stretching every day regardless of physical activity is important as well.
In this article you’ll find out why is stretching important.
Importance Of Stretching
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which inhibits walking. Likewise, when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched. Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury.
Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, flexible and have several health benefits.
Benefits Of Stretching For The Body
- Increased Flexibility and Joint Range of Motion
Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring. Flexibility tends to diminish as you get older, but you can regain and maintain it.
- Improved Circulation
Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Blood flowing to your muscles brings oxygen and nutrients and gets rid of waste byproducts in the muscle tissue. Improved circulation can help shorten your recovery time if you’ve had any muscle injuries.
- Better Posture
Tight muscles can cause poor posture. Specifically, the muscles of the chest, back (both lower and upper), and hips can cause poor posture if they are tight. Many of us spend at least a portion of our day sitting at a computer or looking at a phone or tablet. The position that is typical for these activities (rounded shoulders and forward head) is a position of poor posture.
Frequent stretching can help keep your muscles from getting tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.
- Stretching Can Prevent Injury
If you stretch a muscle too far, it will become strained or torn. If you stretch and increase the range in which a muscle can move, the likelihood of injuring decreases. Stretching before physical activity, specifically, helps prevent injury by bringing blood flow to the muscles, warming them up, and decreasing any tightness they might have to prevent a strain or a tear.
- Improves Range Of Motion
As we age, our joints lose range of motion. We can counteract this by stretching regularly. Even if a range of motion in some joints is limited, stretching can help to improve this.
- Reduces Soreness
As said before, stretching improves blood circulation. An increased flow of oxygen-enriched blood and nutrient supply helps reduce soreness.
- Stretching Can Decrease Back Pain.
This somewhat goes hand in hand with posture. If we have poor posture in the upper back, the lower back compensates and can develop pain. Also, if we have tight hamstrings or hip flexors, the lower back compensates and can develop pain.
Benefits of Stretching for the Mind
- Calmed Mind
Stretching provides your mind with a mental break. It allows you to recharge and refresh the blood flow throughout your body, resulting in a calmer and more peaceful mindset.
- Releases Tension
Many individuals carry stress in their muscles. When feeling overwhelmed, muscles tighten acting as a defensive strategy. The more you stretch, the less tense muscles will be. Stretching is a very effective form of stress management
- Increases Energy
Because stretching allows an increased blood and nutrient flow throughout the body, not only will you feel refreshed, but also your energy levels will be increased resulting in an improved sense of invigoration.
Stretching Is Not A Warm-Up Activity
Stretching with cold muscles may result in injury. Stretching is most effective when muscles are warm. It is best to stretch after a small bout of physical activity. If you would like to stretch before a vigorous workout, try walking or running a bit to warm up your muscles first, next you may start stretching, and then you may begin your workout.
Focus on muscles that are tight
Tight muscles are a result of soreness and stress. When muscles become tight, it is important to pay attention to these muscles first so that blood flow increases and tension is reduced. Once these previously tense muscles are stretched, movement becomes more fluid-like and soreness is reduced.
Bouncing while stretching may slightly tear muscles which may lead to scar tissue which further tighten the muscle leading to a decreased flexibility and increased soreness. Stretches should be held for about 15-60 seconds and repeated three or four times. The amount of time spent holding stretches depends on how sore you are and which muscles you want to focus on specifically.
Stretch at least 2-3 days per week for at least 10 minutes a day
Stretching does not need to be time-consuming. If you take 10 minutes out of your day to stretch and try to do so at least 2-3 days a week you will achieve the most benefits. If you stretch on an irregular schedule, your body will not be able to maintain a consistent range of motion. Because stretching increases your range of motion, it is important to get in the habit of stretching often in order to increase flexibility.