Whether you're brand new to working out or you're a seasoned athlete, we can all benefit from stretching. Adding just 5-10 minutes of it to a daily routine can do incredible things for the body. Let’s take a look at 10 potential benefits.
Stretching should play a key role in every workout program. Here are the top 10 reasons that we all should take the time to stretch:
One of the incredible things about stretching is that it promotes a healthy heart. The research shows that spending as little as 12 weeks stretching can improve blood flow and promote heart health. On top of that, stretching reduces vascular system problems. That means it may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Okay, this seems obvious but here's why that matters: Improved flexibility can help us to easily perform everyday activities without pain. With age, mobility is reduced but stretching can delay and counter that effect.
So flexibility isn't just about being bendy. True, being bendy has some aesthetic advantages but consider the length of this list! Flexibility has an impact on virtually every system of the body.
Our joints should be able to move through a complete range of motion. That's what gives us freedom of movement. But without stretching, our muscles get stiff and less flexible, limiting the range of motion and increasing the risk of injury. Researchers have found that both dynamic and static stretching are useful for increasing range of motion. For more immediate gains, try proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching, which pushes muscles to the limit. (Professional guidance suggested.)
When our muscles are more flexible, we’re less likely to get injured doing everyday tasks. As we've discussed, stretching increases the range of motion, which means we have less resistance on our muscles during physical activity. Stretching may help prevent falls for this same reason.
Better circulation is another perk of regularly stretching. Improved circulation and increased blood flow to the muscles and joints can mean shorter recovery times, less pain and less fatigue. Stretching allows for better nutrient transportation throughout the entire body. There is also some evidence that stretching can reduce muscle soreness.
One common cause of poor posture is muscle imbalance or tightness. Studies have found a combination of stretching and strengthening can lessen musculoskeletal pain and promote correct alignment. And that can naturally improve posture.
When we are stressed out, our muscles get tense. Chronically tight muscles can end up cutting off the circulation, which results in a lack of essential nutrients and oxygen. Stretching lets muscles relax, floods them with nutrients, and releases the tension. And when the muscles are less tense, we, likewise, tend to feel less stressed.
According to Harvard Health, one key to healing and preventing back pain is stretching. Strengthening the muscles helps, too. Tight and underworked muscles are often the cause of back pain. Stretching the hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, and all of the muscles attached to the pelvis reduces back pain by relieving stress on the lumbar spine. Worse yet, when the range of motion in the back is decreased due to tight muscles, the likelihood of strain increases significantly.
Studies have shown that stretching prior to physical exercise helps to prepare the muscles for the activity. Think of it like this: Flexible joints move through a greater range of motion, and they require less energy to complete that motion. Overall functional performance improves when the body is more flexible because stretching creates more energy-efficient movement. This means that all of our activities, from sports to chores will be improved by stretching before and after. After? Yes, see below.
Our first line of defense from post-workout soreness after a great workout is stretching. When we strength train, our muscles contract, and the muscle fibers get shorter. Stretching them back out following exercise promotes better mobility, and floods them with nutrients to promote healing, which means less pain.If you are new to stretching, take your time. Don't rush through a routine. It takes muscles a little time to get used to stretching. It's also important that you use proper form and technique to avoid injury. If you already have any injuries, check with a doctor or physical therapist for modified stretches that will better suit your needs. But as you can see here, there are a ton of great reasons to get stretching. There are few things that provide such an extensive list of benefits in just a few minutes every day.
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