Benefits of Stretching
You know how nice it feels when you stand up after sitting for a long time, take a big stretch, and feel your back and muscles move in a way that feels so good? Stretching doesn’t just feel great — there are many benefits of stretching that really help our bodies perform better. For example, improving your flexibility helps your body do everyday tasks more efficiently and reduces the chances of injury. If you workout regularly, stretching should be part of your exercise routine, but regardless of your fitness routine, stretching is something everyone should make time for on a daily basis.
Here are some benefits of stretching:
Reduced Tension in Muscles
Stretching helps muscles relax, which allows oxygen and nutrients to move easier through your body.
Relieve Aches After Exercise
Stretching your muscles after exercise helps keep them loose and lessens the achy feeling that can happen after a strenuous workout.
Muscle imbalances can cause us to slouch. When you regularly stretch muscles in your shoulders, chest, and lower back, it helps your back muscles align better. Better posture will help you stand straighter and make you feel taller!
When you stretch, you increase the blood flow to your joints and muscles. This helps nutrients move easier, and improve the circulation throughout your body.
When you stretch and release tension, your body will feel more relaxed. If you notice you hold stress in a certain part of your body, like your neck, be sure to give the area extra attention. Try doing stretches as part of your bedtime routine to help you unwind and prepare for sleep.
Less Back Pain
Tight hamstrings and hip flexors can put stress on the lumbar spine and make our backs hurt. If you’ve ever had back pain, then you know how much it can negatively impact your life. Stretching the lower body can help!
Less Chance of Injury
One major benefit of stretching is decreased risk of injury. Flexible muscles can handle sudden movements better than a tight muscle can. This means you can move easier and be less likely to pull a muscle or strain a joint.
Increased Range of Motion
The more relaxed and flexible your joints and muscles are, the larger your range of motion. If you’ve ever wanted to be able to reach things on a high shelf easier, or bend over farther when picking things up off the floor, stretching can help.
Tips for Stretching
If you are ready to include stretching as part of your daily routine, here are tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t stretch cold muscles – this can lead to injury, so warm up first with a walk or bike ride, or do your stretching after your regular workout.
- Hold for 30 seconds – hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, or longer for especially tight areas. Don’t forget to breathe!
- Don’t bounce – bouncing can actually make muscles more tight, so make sure to stay still in stretch in a smooth motion.
- Add movement – while you shouldn’t bounce, adding fluid movements to your stretch such as those in yoga, pilates, or tai chi can help with flexibility, and strengthen the stabilizer muscles that can help prevent falls.
- Stretch the major muscle groups – hips, hamstrings, quads, calves, neck, shoulders, and lower back are all important areas to target in your stretches.
And finally, remember to ease into it. If you are new to stretching, don’t be discouraged if you can’t touch your toes or bend like a yogi. Do what you can, and keep doing it. Before long, you’ll be noticing improvement in your flexibility and your muscles will feel more relaxed.