Why regular stretching is important?
It's not enough to build muscle and achieve aerobic fitness. You need to think about flexibility, too. Stretching can help.
You may think of stretching as something performed only by runners or gymnasts. But we all need to stretch in order to protect our mobility and independence. A lot of people don't understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis - it should be daily!
Why stretching Is important?
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which inhibits walking. Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible, and this means that exertion won't put too much force on the muscle itself.
Other reasons for stretching include:
• Increases blood flow to your muscles - Performing stretches on a regular basis may improve your circulation. Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness
• Improves your posture - Muscle imbalances are common and can lead to poor posture. A combination of strengthening and stretching specific muscle groups can reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment. That, in turn, may help improve your posture
• 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
• Is great for stress relief - When you’re experiencing stress, there’s a good chance your muscles are tense. That’s because your muscles tend to tighten up in response to physical and emotional stress. Focus on areas of your body where you tend to hold your stress, such as your neck, shoulders, and upper back
• Can calm your mind - participating in a regular stretching program not only helps increase your flexibility, but it can also calm your mind. While you stretch, focus on mindfulness and meditation exercises, which give your mind a mental break
• Helps decrease tension headaches - tension and stress headaches can interfere with your daily life. In addition to a proper diet, adequate hydration, and plenty of rest, stretching may help reduce the tension you feel from headaches
The most common forms of stretches are static and dynamic:
• Static stretches involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for a period of time, typically between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of stretching is most beneficial after you exercise.
• Dynamic stretches are active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but the stretch is not held in the end position. These stretches are usually done before exercise to get your muscles ready for movement.
How to start a stretching routine?
If you’re new to a regular stretching routine, take it slow. Just like other forms of physical activity, your body needs time to get used to the stretches you’re performing.
You also need a solid grasp of proper form and technique. Otherwise, you risk getting injured.
You can stretch any time during the day. On days you exercise:
• Aim for 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching prior to your activity
• Do another 5 to 10 minutes of static or PNF stretching after your workout
On days when you aren’t exercising, still plan to schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes of time for stretching. This can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness and pain.
When stretching, focus on the major areas of your body that help with mobility, such as your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. For upper-body relief, try moves that stretch the shoulders, neck, and lower back.
International Yoga Day lands on June 21st this year. If you’re into your Yoga or Pilates then you definitely don’t need any extra reason to partake in the activity for flexibility and wellbeing. In any case, I definitely encourage you to incorporate stretching more into your daily habits. The short and long term physical and mental benefits are vital in a world where we may spend most of our time sat down in front of a desk. Happy stretching