Stretching when you wake up or after sitting for long hours feels so good, right? This is because muscles become tight and lose tone with the lack of movement. Your body fluids then tend to accumulate on your back or butt, and stretching helps get the blood flowing and awakens your muscles.
Whether or not you work out, you need to stretch your body. Apart from its physical benefits, do you know that stretching may also be good for your mind and emotions?
Benefits of stretching
1. Increases flexibility
Flexibility is essential when it comes to performing everyday activities, whether big or small. It also helps delay problems with mobility and balance that come with aging. Improving flexibility via stretching can prevent early development of arthritis, osteoporosis, and other posture and movement-related diseases.
Your tissues and joints in the body need to be stretched to ensure that you can carry out your daily activities comfortably and safely. If you engage in physical workouts, stretching is crucial to avoid potential muscle damage and injuries.
2. Improves your range of motion
Stretching helps in keeping the body’s mobility and freedom to execute different movements. A more limber body makes it easier to perform your body’s range of motion, like touching your toes, putting your arms upward or even climbing up the stairs.
Our bodies are meant to be moved and stretched, otherwise, the number of movements we will be capable of doing with ease will be restricted.
3. Promotes blood flow around the body
Proper oxygen-rich blood circulation is essential to quick recovery from muscle soreness. This is why after an intensive cardio or weightlifting workout, stretching is recommended as part of your cooldown exercises.
Stretching also helps in warming up and preparing the muscles before workouts, as it serves as a nudge to keep the tissues on a roll. It also makes it easier for the heart and the lungs to function during these activities; and lessens the stress they might acquire during the process.
Doing stretches also helps in muscle strength training by allowing the tissues to contract and expand, to make way for an increased range of motion while nurturing its full power potential.
4. Improves posture
Doing regular stretching strengthens and lengthens specific muscles in the body. It also reduces musculoskeletal pain and stimulates proper alignment.
5. Prevents back pain
One of the significant causes of back pain and other body aches is muscle tension. By doing an everyday stretching session, you can prevent muscle straining and help heal existing injuries by stimulating blood circulation around the concerned area.
When you stop moving, the fluid in your joints does so as well. Maintaining an active lifestyle by doing stretches regularly will prevent your body from getting stiff and painful.
Chronic back pain is a common affliction in most adults due to a lack of regular movement. Do not wait until you feel the aches and pains in your body- start moving today and keep your muscles active.
6. Calms the mind
Yoga involves a lot of stretching, and it helps in calming one’s mind and helps you break free from all the worries and stress. Gentle and slow stretches like in pilates and yoga provide a more profound sense of wholeness that will bring inner peace.
Examples of calming yoga stretching poses are: standing forward bend, cat-cow pose, head-to-knee forward bend, bridge pose and child’s pose.
7. Stress relief
Have you experienced tightness in your muscles as you faced a stressful situation? Stress and muscle tension often go hand in hand.
Doing stretches focused on specific tensed muscles, coupled with deep breathing, will help relieve stress, trigger the development of various hormones and make you feel more at ease.
8. Post-workout cooldown
Sore muscles are a common denominator after most workout routines. Although it doesn’t completely heal muscle soreness, stretching can reduce muscle tension and lessens the pains, potential micro-tears, and lesions incurred from strenuous activities.
Different Kinds Of Stretches
There are four types of stretching that a person can do to improve their body flexibility. These include:
- Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
Static and dynamic stretching are the more popular type for most people.
Static stretching is done when a person is comfortable, usually when sitting or lying down, but it is also possible when standing up. This type of stretch lasts for about 15 to 45 seconds, so it is the perfect kind of wake-me-up stretch.
Some examples of static stretching include:
- Standing forward fold hamstring stretch
- Seated forward hold hamstring stretch
- Butterfly stretch
- Quadriceps stretch
Static stretches are also best after workouts to get the muscles to cool down. It helps the body gain mobility and flexibility.
Dynamic stretching mainly focuses on the movement of the joints and muscles by engaging in a full range of motion without stopping. This is best to do pre-workout because it warms up the body and prepares the muscles so that they won’t contract or develop tension while doing your routines.
Dynamic stretching includes:
- Alternate pulling knees to chest
- High knees
- Lunge with upper body rotation
- Leg swings
You can do dynamic stretches before a jog or a swimming session.
This is similar to dynamic stretching, wherein it is focused on movement. However, it attempts to go beyond the normal range of motion, which can result in injury.
Movements include bouncing while stretching, which can increase chances of injury and are not shown to give any additional benefits compared to dynamic stretching. Due to these findings, ballistic stretching is not a recommended form of stretching.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
PNF is usually conducted during therapy sessions and training, and should be done in the presence of a professional physical therapist or personal trainer.
The three main techniques for this type of stretching are hold-relax, contract-relax, and hold-relax with agonist contraction.
The best way to incorporate stretching into your daily routine is to do it as soon as you get up from bed. Stretching from head to toe just takes five to ten minutes, and helps you start your day with a lighter body and a positive mood.