Does the word stretching make you cringe or roll your eyes? Are you guilty of finishing a workout without stretching or walk out of class during the stretching part at the end? I know, I sympathize with you. I had been guilty of that myself. You probably already know that stretching is vital to perform, but did you know there are some fantastic benefits to adding stretching in your weekly routine?
First question, what is stretching anyway? Stretching is a specific exercise that you perform for an individual muscle or tendon that flexes or stretches them to improve the muscle’s flexibility keeping them strong and healthy. We need that flexibility to maintain our range of motion in the joints; without stretching our the muscles will shorten and become tight. When this happens with your muscles, and when you call on them to perform an activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. This will, in the end, puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
When you incorporate stretching in your weekly routine, it can improve your posture, reduce stress and body aches, and much more. Here are some benefits of why you should start adding stretching into your workout routines and weekly habits.
- Calming-When you participate in a routine of stretching, it helps increase your flexibility and stability, but it can also calm your mind. Just like in yoga practice, while you stretch, try to focus on being more mindful and on your breathe, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Doing this will help relax you and help clear your mind, helping you pause, giving you a mental break.
- Stress Reliever-Did you know that when you’ experience stress, there’s a good chance your muscles are also tense. Why is that? It’s because whenever you feel emotional or physical stress, your muscles tend to tighten up in response to the stress you are feeling. Stretching relaxes any tight, tense muscles that often accompany stress, especially in areas where you tend to hold your stress, such as your neck and shoulders.
- Improves Posture-Stretching the lower back, shoulders, and chest muscles will help keep your back in better alignment and improves your posture. Doing more stretches can improve your posture because bad posture can be caused by tight muscles that pull your body away from its intended natural position. Stretching will help loosen up your muscles, keeping them flexible and keeping your whole body in the position it is supposed to be in. Tight muscles will cause your back to hunch, and the rest of your muscles tighten, affecting your mobility, making you walk funny, and causing some severe pain. (1)
- Improves Performance-Stretching can make your joints, tendons, and muscles more flexible. If you are active, a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a broader range of motion; a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements. (2) Also, performing dynamic stretches before physical activities can help get your muscles ready for action, and it may also help improve your performance. (3)
- Increased Flexibility-Increasing your flexibility is essential for not just your body but also for your overall health. Not only can improved flexibility helps you to perform everyday activities with relative ease, but it can also improve your range of motion, which may also slow the degeneration of your joints. Increasing your flexibility with stretches can help relieve daily pains from tight muscles, which will help you move faster, be more stable, and help prevent injuries. (3)
- Increases Blood Flow-Here is one thing you may want to consider; performing stretches regularly could improve your circulation. Improving circulation will increase blood flow and supply as well as means more oxygen to your muscles and joints. This allows for greater nutrients to transport throughout your entire body, reducing muscle soreness and even shortening recovery time.
- Increases Range of Motion-Stretching regularly can help increase your range of motion. Being more flexible will help you move a joint through its full range of motion giving you more freedom of movement.
- Reduces Back Pain-If your muscles are tight, it can lead to a decrease in your range of motion. When this happens, you increase the likelihood of straining the muscles in your back. Increasing the flexibility in your hamstrings, hip flexors, and muscles attached to the pelvis can relieve any stressors on the lumbar spine, which will reduce the risk of back pain. Stretching regularly can also help prevent future back pain by strengthening your back muscles and reducing your muscle strain risk. It can also help ease the pain of any current back pain. (3)
- Decrease Tension Headaches– Having a headache can wreak havoc in your day to day life. Good news, stretching can help alleviate headaches associated with tight muscles around the neck and upper back. If you tend to suffer from headaches often, add stretches in your head, neck, shoulders, and the upper back area, adding a healthy balanced diet, proper hydration, and plenty of rest.
- Increase Energy Levels– If you ever stretched regularly, you may already be aware of how it affects your mood. Another great benefit that comes with stretching regularly is that it can help boost your energy levels. The increased circulation of blood throughout your body that comes with stretching also counts for increased circulation to your brain. In general, having more blood supply flowing to your brain means that you are more alert and more energetic. Usually, when you feel tired, it may cause your muscles to tighten and in which makes you feel sluggish. When you start feeling tired, you can get up and do a few stretches to get the blood flowing and loosen up your muscles, giving you a quick energy boost. This is also something great to do when you first wake up and getting out of bed. (1)
The two most commons stretches are Dynamic and Static stretches. Dynamic stretches are usually active movements that cause your muscles to stretch but are typically done before exercise to get your muscles ready for movement. Static stretches involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for a certain period of time, typically between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of stretching is most beneficial and done after your exercise.
Make sure when performing stretches may sure you relax and breathe normally while stretching. Always keep your joints slightly bent, never “locked” in a straight position. Do not bounce when you are holding a stretch as that can do more harm than good and cause injuries.
In conclusion, if you haven’t already started stretching after your workouts or on your off days, you might want to give it some serious thoughts. You can see a wide variety of unique benefits stretching has to offer. Stretching will make you feel happier, more relaxed, more flexible, help your stability, and so much more. Try to incorporate some yoga into your weekly workout routines since practicing yoga involves stretching and breathing. What are you waiting for?
You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before altering your diet or starting any fitness program