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The Importance of Stretching and Benefits of Stretching

The Importance of Stretching and Benefits of Stretching

Stretching is very important for flexibility, range of motion and injury prevention. As many of us are social distancing at home, and partaking in some killer at-home workouts, we need to remember to stretch too! Stretching benefits your posture, balance, mobility, and much more. Incorporating stretching into your daily workouts is a given but including it in your daily routine is just as important to health and body functioning as regular exercise. It relaxes your muscles and increases blood flow and nutrients to your cartilage and muscles.

Stretching is one component of fitness that a lot of us find way too easy to skip. But there are some benefits of stretching that might just make you want to add it to your routine. Any healthy workout routine should include stretching exercises. That’s because stretching provides a variety of health benefits, from improving flexibility to preventing injury.

Stretching on a regular basis can have several health benefits. Many people know that stretching before physical activity is important, but stretching every day regardless of physical activity is important as well. Here are five benefits that stretching has.

There are many benefits to regular stretching. Not only can stretching help increase your flexibility, which is an important factor of fitness, but it can also improve your posture, reduce stress and body aches, and more.

While the research on stretching is a bit mixed, there are some legit mental and physical benefits to incorporating it into your routine, whether you stretch pre-workout, at the end of your session, or another time during the day People who make time for stretching may find it helps their workouts—and daily life—feel a little (or a lot) better.

Most people rarely stretch after a run or workout. Stretching should be incorporated into every  workout. If you only have an hour to lift, you should set aside at least 10-15 minutes to properly stretch post workout. It is key to stretch after, because it reduces the risk of injury and increases the overall benefit of the workout. Static stretching such as touching your toes before exercise, has also been shown to decrease performance. However, stretching after improves mobility and reduces the risk of future injury. Before a #workout, an active #warmup with #dynamic stretching such as high knees are  the best way to start..

Even if it’s not a full-fledged workout routine, you can still fit movement into your daily work schedule. And if you’ve ever wondered: “Is stretching exercise?”, the answer is yes — it’s actually an essential part of standalone bodywork and exercise routines.

Many people overlook the importance of stretching for overall physical health. The fact is, remaining flexible can help reduce injuries and provide an overall feeling of well-being.

Benefits Of Stretching

Benefits Of Stretching

Stretching Can Improve 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 with these activities (rounded shoulders and forward head) is a position of poor posture. We can improve on this by stretching the pectoralis, upper trapezius, and hamstring muscles, to name a few.

Increases Your Flexibility

Regular stretching can help increase your flexibility, which is crucial for your overall health. Not only can improved flexibility help you to perform everyday activities with relative ease, but it can also help delay the reduced mobility that can come with aging.

Stretching Can Help You Better Recruit Your Muscles When Working Out.

If you’re able to stick with a regular stretching routine, you may see only an increase in range of motion, but also improvement in your performance. Ford explains it this way: The more range of motion you have, the more muscle you’ll be able to activate. For example, if you have limited range of motion in your hamstrings, you might only be able to activate, say, 40% of the muscle when performing a single-leg deadlift. But if you increase your hamstring flexibility, you can then activate, say 60%, of that muscle. The result? You’ll gain strength, Ford explains, which would allow you to lift more weight—and thus get even stronger.

Stretching Maintains Mobility

Stretching maintains range of motion, which is necessary for everyday activities like walking, bending, and twisting, as well as for athletic pursuits.

“When I’m thinking about my kayaking and hiking and all the things I want to do, if I don’t have a better range of motion, it’s going to limit my ability to do those activities,” says Barbara Bushman, an exercise physiologist, kinesiology professor at Missouri State University, and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

People typically lose range of motion as they age. A large 2013 study found that flexibility decreased with age, typically starting at 30 or 40 years old. The study also found that some joints, like those in your spine, lost more flexibility than others, hindering participants’ ability to move.

Plus, as people age, they tend to get more hunched over, and their walking stride shortens, making it extra important to stretch frequently.

“Maintaining flexibility and joint mobility is really critical to aging gracefully and staying active,” says Michael Fredericson, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Stanford University and head physician for Stanford’s track & field and swimming teams.

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. Stretching the leg muscles and the muscles mentioned for posture will likely help to decrease back pain.

Increases Blood Flow To Your Muscles

Performing stretches on a regular basis may improve your circulationTrusted Source. Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness (also known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS).

Stretching Prevents Injury

Traditionally, athletes learned to stretch statically before a workout to avoid injury. However, research now shows that dynamic stretching loosens tissues and muscles more effectively before physical activity.

A small 2019 study found that stiff hamstrings and decreased range of motion in the knee are risk factors for hamstring injury. As a result, dynamic stretching may help prevent those injuries.

A 2007 review also found that stretching, both static and dynamic, within 15 minutes before an activity can deter injury. It found that stretching significantly reduced low back pain and muscle/tendon injuries such as strains.

Stretching Can Decrease Muscle Soreness

If you have soreness in a muscle or muscle group from a recent workout or from a muscle strain, stretching can help relieve some of this discomfort. Many times, when we are injured, the muscles around the injury site tighten up as a protective response. By stretching these tight muscles out, pain and soreness can be alleviated.

Helps To Heal And Prevent Back Pain

Tight muscles can lead to a decrease in your range of motion. When this happens, you increase the likelihood of straining the muscles in your back. Stretching can help heal an existing back injury by stretching the muscles.

A regular stretching routine can also help prevent future back pain by strengthening your back muscles and reducing your risk for muscle strain.

Stretching Improves Sleep And Eases Anxiety

Stretching not only helps loosen tight muscles, but it might also offer mental health benefits.

A small 2019 study found that participants with chronic insomnia reported improved sleep and anxiety after stretching three times a week for four months when compared to those who did not stretch or exercise.

Additionally, stretching may ease stress and anxiety. A small 2013 study found that people who stretched for 10 minutes after work reported being less anxious and more energetic three months later than those who did not. They also reported less bodily pain and improved mental health.

“[Stretching] gets you into an environment that you’re not running around,” says Phil Page, a licensed physical therapist, and assistant professor of physical therapy at Franciscan University in Baton Rouge. “I’m stopping, and I’m relaxing, and I’m thinking about my muscles and my movement.”

Stretching Primes You For Your Workout

Experts typically recommend dynamic stretches before a workout. That’s because pre-workout dynamic stretches are “a way of moving slow before you move fast,” says Hernandez. By doing this, “you’re preparing your body to work efficiently in order to both produce and absorb high forces,” he explains.

Stretching Can Pinpoint Bodily Imbalances

Stretching can be a great way to identify imbalances in flexibility or areas of extra tightness in the body, which then gives you a chance to correct those problem areas before they lead to injury, says Ford. For example, say you’re stretching your hips in a lunging hip flexor stretch and notice that you’re able to sink deeper into the stretch on your right side compared to your left. That discrepancy would alert you to the fact that you have an imbalance in hip openness that’s probably also showing up when you do exercises involving the hips, like running, squatting, and lunging.

With that intel, you can then be extra cognizant to work your hips evenly through their full range of motion whenever you perform exercises involving the hips. You may also want to add more unilateral exercises into your routine to further combat the imbalance.

Other Stretching Benefits

  • Decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion. Stretching helps improve your range of motion, which may also slow the degeneration of your joints.
  • May reduce your risk of injury. A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured if you have to make a sudden move. By increasing the range of motion in a particular joint through stretching, you can decrease the resistance on your body’s muscles during various activities.
  • Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains. After a hard workout, stretching your muscles helps keep them loose and lessens the shortening and tightening effect that can lead to post-workout aches and pains.
  • Improves posture. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest helps keep your back in better alignment and improves your posture.
  • Helps reduce or manage stress. Well-stretched muscles hold less tension and, therefore, can help you feel less stressed.
  • Reduces muscular tension and enhances muscular relaxation. Chronically tense muscles tend to cut off their own circulation, resulting in a lack of oxygen and essential nutrients. Stretching allows your muscles to relax.
  • Improves mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance. Because a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements.
  • Prepares the body for the stress of exercise. Stretching prior to exercise allows your muscles to loosen up and become better able to withstand the impact of the activity you choose to do.
  • Promotes circulation. Stretching increases blood supply to your muscles and joints, which allows for greater nutrient transportation and improves the circulation of blood through your entire body.
  • Increase stamina – Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. The longer you exercise the more energy you burn, typically causing one to grow fatigued. With stretching, you can delay the onset of muscle fatigue by ensuring oxygen is efficiently flowing through your blood, thereby increasing your endurance.
  • Improve energy levels – Sometimes you may have trouble staying awake during your long, dragging day. If you’re feeling this way then it might help to get out of your seat and do a few good stretches for a boost of energy, helping your mind and body be more alert. Muscles tighten when we get tired and that makes us feel even more lethargic, so feel free to stand up and do some stretches. It will help you to quickly and efficiently revitalize your energy levels.
  • Reduces cholesterol – Paired with a healthy diet, engaging in prolonged stretching exercises can help reduce cholesterol in the body. This could prevent and even reverse the hardening of arteries, helping one avoid heart diseases.

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