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Why Is Stretching So Important?

Why Is Stretching So Important?

Getting into a regular stretching routine can be a critical addition to your workout schedule and enhance your ability to increase the intensity of your exercises. It is often overlooked in a workout routine, but adding a stretching regime has many benefits, some of which include reduced stiffness and increased circulation. Stretching aids in increasing the longevity and health of the muscles so that even in the later years of life, they can be fully functional. 

Additionally, stretching not only provides physical benefits but mental health benefits as well. Releasing tension built up in the body and joints allows the body to be put at ease. Stretching can be a good way to relax from a long day and bring your focus back onto yourself. It can be used as a calming aid to unwind and prepare the body for rest, especially when coupled with mediation. 

Benefits Of Stretching

As stated before, stretching provides a variety of long-term health benefits, which include reduced stiffness, increased circulation, reduced wear and tear, and enhanced performance. Here are two main results that you can get from stretching:

Better Recovery

Stretching can aid in reducing stiffness by releasing tension that has built up from excess and repetitive use. This can be beneficial when it comes to avoiding chronic stress that can occur later in life. Circulation to muscles can also be improved through simple stretches. Muscle cramps occur due to the lack of oxygen delivered and the build-up of excess lactic acid. By increasing circulation through stretching, more oxygen is being provided to the muscles, which aids in a faster recovery and prevents prolonged muscle soreness. 

Prevents Injury

One of the most significant benefits of stretching is the prevention of future wear and tear of muscles. Keeping the muscles from building up too much tension and increasing flexibility will increase the longevity of the muscle. By increasing the range of motion of a muscle, this will enhance an individual’s ability of functional use of certain muscles and allow for more efficient performance in exercise routines. The wider the range of motion, the greater the ability to do a variety of exercises that can improve one’s physical health. Improved muscular function will lead to improved health, especially when muscle architecture changes occur as we age. 

Stretching After An Injury

For individuals who have sustained an injury, such as a torn or pulled muscle, it is important to stretch, but the timing of doing so plays an important role. Once a muscle has been torn, it will become inflamed. During this time, it is not recommended to stretch the muscle, as this will increase pain and sensitivity to the area. 

Follow the RICE method for injuries— Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. Allow the inflammation to subside before attempting to stretch the muscle out. This will differ for each individual and depend on the severity of the injury. Once the inflammation has subsided, scar tissue will naturally develop to heal and reattach the muscle. If stretching is not done, it is possible that the scar tissue will become stiff, and the muscle may lose its flexibility. 

Therefore, once the inflammation has diminished, carefully stretch the muscles to their maximum range. There will be minor discomfort, so it is important not to stretch too hard too fast. The key to becoming flexible is persistence. Slowly stretch the muscle out to a tolerable level and incrementally build upon that. If you stay persistent with stretching, the results are sure to follow. 

Developing A Habit

It is important to develop a healthy habit of stretching and include it in your workout routines as well. Stretching does not have to take 30 minutes. In fact, spending 2-3 times a week for 10 minutes stretching will provide beneficial results. Stretching routines can also be done upon waking up or going to bed. Stretching in the morning can loosen tension from muscles built up from the night before. Lying still asleep at night can build up tension and cause muscles to be tight the next morning. 

Therefore, a simple 10-minute stretch can be a good way to start the day and get some blood flowing to the rest of your body and relieve pressure in joints. Alternatively, some may find that stretching at night helps to release stress from the body and relax the muscles before bed. Stretching at night can be paired with meditation in order to prepare the mind for a restful sleep. Whatever way you choose, you can never go wrong with adding a quick stretching routine into your day.

Tips For Stretching

There is no formal way to stretch, but typically the most effective way to see results is to target the muscles that are sore and tight. Once you stretch out these muscles first, you can focus on other areas of the body that you may feel need to be stretched. 

It is important to keep in mind that stretching should be done after muscles have been used and are “warm’’. Stretching with muscles that are “cold’’ could actually result in damage. Keep in mind that stretching should not be done by bouncing. This could result in a muscle tear, which could potentiate into future problems.  

Balance is an important aspect of stretching. When performing stretches, be aware of your body’s balance and sense of neutrality. Everything should be evenly stretched out on both sides for the same amount of time to ensure complete balance. 

Types Of Stretching

There are two approaches to stretching, static and dynamic. Most commonly, static stretching is done, which involves holding a stretch without moving. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is stretching with mobility and performing a controlled range-of-motion. 

Static Stretching

Static stretching can be done standing, lying down, or sitting down. The limb or muscle is held and stretched for up to 45 seconds. This can be done after a work-out or cardio activity to reduce tension and loosen up the muscles. 

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching can be done to increase your range-of-motion and agility. They are done typically prior to athletic activity and can be used to warm-up the muscles before engaging in activities such as swimming or running. Interestingly, dynamic stretching is incorporated into a lot of yoga exercises, which at times focus on elongating the body and stretching out the spine. Total body yoga allows for an increase in flexibility while also providing deep stretches to the muscles. 

Some examples of dynamic stretching include torso twists, full arm circles, and hip rotations. Keep in mind that dynamic stretches are not done fast and forcefully. Rather, it is important to go through the entire motion slowly with control and allow the muscles to stretch to their maximum ability. Then slowly return to the neutral position and repeat again. 

Conclusion

Stretching provides a plethora of benefits, on top of all the benefits you get from exercising alone. Just simply adding a stretching routine to your daily schedule can reduce the wear and tear of muscles in the future. Circulation to the muscle also increases, and excess tension and stress built in the muscles are loosened. Stretching not only has physical benefits but mental health benefits as well. It can provide a way for individuals to relieve mental stress and focus on relaxing the body. This can be done either in the morning as a wake-up routine or at night as a bedtime routine. Whichever time you decide, stretching can only serve to benefit your overall health.

A stretching routine can be simple and still produce results, such as 2-3 times a day for 10 minutes each time. The key is persistence when it comes to seeing results. If you stretch before or after workouts, you may start to notice an increase in your range-of-motion, agility, and ability to perform different workout moments with greater ease. 

There are different types of stretches that can be performed that result in different outcomes. Two of the most common types are static and dynamic stretches. Static stretches are those most commonly performed. This will allow the muscles to decompress, release tension built from the exercise just performed, and increase circulation. 

Dynamic stretches are those involving movement while stretching the intended muscles. These can be done prior to any workout routine or athletic activities in order to warm up the muscles and get the blood flowing to them. Keep in mind that stretching may result in mild discomfort if the muscles are tight. Therefore, use controlled movements and do not overstress the muscles while stretching them out. 

Overall, stretching is a simple routine that can be added to any part of one’s day. It can aid in recovering from injuries and preventing future ones from occurring as well. Developing a healthy habit of stretching can go a long way in keeping one’s health in top shape.  


Sources:

  1. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6387/10-reasons-why-you-should-be-stretching/ 
  2.  https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/blog/archive/healthy-habits/why-stretching-extremely-important 
  3. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_dynamic-static-stretching.asp#:~:text=Static%20stretches%20are%20those%20in,event%2C%20whether%20competitive%20or%20not
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