Benefits/Advantages Of Stretching and It’s Impact On Overall Health

Most people find stretching to be somewhat of a burden or “waste of time” when it comes to maintaining flexibility while staying active (e.g. running, exercising, weight lifting, Cross-fit, swimming, bike riding, etc.).  Frankly, stretching is a practice necessary to your daily routine to achieve a healthier lifestyle.  Even if you are not planning on exercising vigorously, it is still important to stretch to get the most out of your body and mind.  This is one of the many reasons that trying approaches such as yoga, Pilates or simply pre/post workout vibrating plates influence our bodies in a positive fashion.  With this blog we’re going to tackle the basic benefits of stretching on your body and mind as well as the physical advantages you gain.

 

Benefits of stretching for your body:

 

  • Flexibility = The more you stretch and move your muscles, the more flexible you become. Over time, stretching will become easier for your body which results in improved flexibility and more range of motion.

 

  • Posture = Stretching is also beneficial to improve your posture. Poor posture—a VERY common and increasing problem—can easily be reversed and healed with daily stretching. Because stretching strengthens your weak muscles and encourages proper alignment, your body posture will be less slouched and more vertical.

 

  • Injury Prevention = The more you prepare your muscles for any exercise movement, the less susceptible you are to an injury. When your muscles are warm and stretched, movement becomes easier and more fluid which aids in injury prevention.

 

  • Reduced Soreness and Increased Nutrient Intake = Stretching increases blood and nutrient supply to the muscles. Stretching allows increased blood flow in your body so that the nutrients embedded in the blood can be carried and spread out all throughout your body. An increased blood and nutrient supply also help to reduce soreness post-workout.

 

Benefits of stretching for your mind:

 

  • Relaxed 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.

 

  • Release Physical/Emotional Tension = Stress can be carried in our muscles. When feeling overwhelmed, muscles tighten acting as a defensive strategy. Therefore, the more you stretch the less tense muscles will be. Stretching is a highly effective form of stress management.

 

  • Increased Energy = Because stretching allows for an increased blood and nutrient flow throughout the body not only will you feel refreshed, but your energy levels will increase resulting in an improved sense of invigoration.

 

Tips for anyone wanting to incorporate stretching into their lifestyle:

 

  1. DO NOT consider it a warm up activity – There is misinformation circulating that stretching should only be done before a workout is started. However, this is not necessarily true. Stretching with cold muscles can potentially lead to injury and as a result is most effective when the 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 taking a short walk or jog to warm up your muscles first. Then proceed to stretch thoroughly and begin your workout.
  2. Don’t aim for pain – Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back up to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
  3. Focus on major muscle groups – Concentrate your stretches on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders. Make sure that you stretch both sides and give extra attention to muscles and joints that you routinely use.
  4. Hold your stretch – Breathe normally and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. (In problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds.)
  5. Reduce Bouncing – Bouncing while stretching may slightly tear muscles which can lead to scar tissue which further tighten the muscle. This in turn can lead to decreased flexibility and increased soreness. Stretches should be held for about 15-60 seconds and repeated 3-4 times. (avoiding any bouncing movement) The amount of time spent holding stretches depends on how sore you are and which muscles you want to focus on specifically.
  6. 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 to increase flexibility.

 

As mentioned throughout this blog, it is important to understand the proper technique behind each stretch. Make sure that you are stretching correctly and safely to prevent injury. If you are injured and already have tense muscles, do not overwork it. If you are stretching and feel pain, it is crucial for you to ease up on the tense muscle to prevent damaging the muscle even more. Additionally, try to focus on major muscle tendons primarily- these include neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, pelvis, hips, and legs. When you stretch the major muscles, you will improve your flexibility throughout your whole body. Finally, remember to keep up with your stretching routine. The more you stretch, the more your body and your mind will benefit especially if done on a consistent basis. Stretching is a great way to take a break from your busy day to recharge and strengthen your body and your mind. As always: Stay safe, stay active, stay positive. Power on!

 

References:

 

Stretching: 9 Benefits, Plus Safety Tips and How to Start: https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-stretching

Current Concepts In Muscle Stretching For Exercise and Rehabilitation research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/

*Mobility, Flexibility & Exercise Stretches by Tom Merrick videos: https://www.youtube.com/c/BodyweightWarrior/featured*