Animals often perform unconscious stretching movements (pandiculations) as a way to keep their body supple. Humans do this when they yawn and stretch in the morning. But how often do we stretch throughout the day? Over 80% of Americans have sedentary jobs, which means that their job is carried out in a sitting position. Many of us can go from the start to the end of the day without performing any stretching movements.
This article is going to look at why it’s so essential to stretch, what are the long-term benefits, and the best ways to stretch.
Why Is Stretching Good For You?
Assisted stretching helps to keep the body supple and active, which has a range of benefits. Assisted stretching can help you stay healthy, move better, and even improve your mental health.
Stretching helps your muscles retain the ability to extend and move. If you do not stretch regularly, your muscles may shorten. This means that when you need your muscles to extend, they may not have the natural ability to do so. Assisted stretching prevents injury prevention as it strengthens the muscles and prevents injuries like strained muscles or muscle damage.
Keeps Joints Healthy
Studies suggest that activities like yoga improve joint conditions like arthritis. A study in BMC Research Notes showed that after several yoga sessions, those with arthritis reported a better range of movement and reduced pain. This is because assisted stretching helps to maintain muscle strength, which supports the joints and also helps to lubricate them, making it easier to move.
Tense muscles cause pain relief because your muscles become stiff and need to be forced outside their natural range of movement. Assisted stretching can help strengthen muscles from your neck all the way to your toes. This keeps them supple, flexible, and ready to extend when you need them to. If you put too much pressure on your muscles, you may end up with muscle soreness. The more you stretch, the stronger your muscles will be, and the less likely it is you will have muscle soreness.
Better Sports Performance
Studies from Current Sports Medicine Reports reveal that dynamic stretching before a sports event can significantly improve performance. The action of assisted stretching reduces muscle tension and soreness and boosts the range of motion that sports professionals have before an event. Continuous stretching can also significantly boost your performance in sports like athletics, as you are less likely to suffer from injuries.
Stretching activities like yoga have been shown to reduce anxiety and induce feelings of relaxation. As you stretch, your body releases stress-reducing hormones that can lead to feelings of increased well-being. A 2020 study published in JAMA Psychiatry even suggested that stretching was more successful than cognitive-behavioral therapy in treating generalized anxiety disorder.
Assisted stretching helps to strengthen your muscles, which can in turn lead to better posture. Weaker, tense muscles can lead you to hunch and sit in uncomfortable positions. As most of us have sedentary jobs, it can be incredibly easy to sit in a bad position for hours at a time, which in turn can lead to muscle soreness and pain. The better the range of motion your muscles have, the more likely they are to support a good posture.
Better Mental Health
Assisted stretching has also been shown to release endorphins and dopamine, which help to boost our mood. Regular stretching over time can lead to a continual release of these brain chemicals, which can lead to better mental health. Pursuing challenges like improving your range of movement through stretching can also improve resilience and lead to a sense of achievement and purpose.
Slow Down The Aging Process
Assisted stretching slows down the aging process, as it slows down the areas of the brain that shrink as we age. Individuals who practice yoga have less shrinkage in the areas of the brain that contain memory. Assisted stretching also improves our physical health, as it allows us to keep a greater range of movement for longer. Finally, it also reduces stress levels which can age the body over time. All in all, stretching can help protect you from a range of factors that lead to cognitive and physical decline as you get older.
Stretching Is Good For Heart Health
Assisted stretching is good for your blood flow, which also keeps your heart healthy. It also increases the amount of oxygen in your blood. As stretching improves blood pressure, it also prevents stiffening and thickening of the arteries, which can lead to complications like a heart attack or heart failure.
Helps With Healing
Assisted stretching can help with injury prevention as it strengthens the muscles. But it can also help with the healing process after an injury. The stronger your muscles are, the quicker they heal and repair after a sports-related injury. Gentle stretching as recommended by a health professional can also help during the healing process, as it can keep your muscles supple during recovery.
Improve Mental Focus
Assisted stretching allows you to focus on improving your physical fitness and can give your mind a break. It also releases serotonin, a mood-stabilizing hormone that helps you to feel good. Stretching is an excellent way to refocus and recharge, improving your mental clarity in the process.
How Do I Start Stretching?
When you start to stretch, it’s important to strike the right balance between receiving the benefits of stretching, and not over-exerting yourself. Many common conceptions about stretching can actually be harmful to the body. Read on for advice on factors to avoid when you start stretching.
Warm-Up Before You Stretch
Many of us think that stretching forms part of a warm-up. But putting pressure on your muscles before they have warmed up can actually risk damage. To ensure injury prevention, have a gentle five-minute jog or walk before you stretch. After you have had a gentle warm-up and then stretched, you can finally start your workout session. This gives your muscles a chance to stretch during that initial gentle, first five minutes.
Stretching After A Workout Is Essential
Assisted stretching after a workout is more important than stretching beforehand. After a workout, your muscles are supple and more extended. It can also reduce the build-up of lactic acid in the body, which is generated during a workout. Stretching can also reduce muscle soreness after a workout, leaving you ready for your next exercise routine.
Less Is More
Over-stretching is sometimes more damaging than not doing it at all. Stretching tendons over 4% of their original length can cause permanent damage. Slow and consistent stretching will avoid long-term damage. Over-exertion can also lead to muscle soreness that makes it hard to complete workouts in the near future.
How Do I Know Which Stretches Are Right For Me?
If you’re not feeling confident in starting stretching on your own, an iFlex introductory package can help you to identify which stretches can best help you and your body. A flexibility assessment will help identify which muscles could benefit from being strengthened, and which tailored stretches can best help your body.
What Types Of Stretching Are There?
There are two main types of stretches, static and dynamic stretches. Static stretches are when you hold a particular position for around 45 seconds using some of the stretches described above. Dynamic stretching is when you incorporate stretching into part of your workout routine and encourage repeat movement.
Good examples of a dynamic stretching routine include:
- Torso twists – stand with your feet facing forward and a shoulder-length apart. Leave your arms by your side with a bend in your elbows. Keeping your feet fixed on the floor, twist your torso from side to side.
- Leg swing – stand on one leg and use a surface or wall for support. Gently swing your leg in front and behind you. Your back should be straight. This helps to relax your hip muscles and hamstrings if you run regularly.
- Walking lunges – put your hands on your waist with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with your right leg and put the weight on your heel. Lower yourself down with a bent right knee. Pause and then move your left foot forward with your right leg in the same position.
Dynamic movements differ from static as they mimic human movement rather than stretching in a fixed position.
How Can iFlex Help Me With My Stretching?
Our iFlex founders are leaders in innovative chiropractic care and have extended their chiropractic knowledge to include a cutting-edge stretching package. Our experts include leaders in neuromuscular therapy and musculoskeletal conditions. We can help you alleviate your back pain, ensure injury prevention and improve your range of movement. iFlex packages range from an introductory session all the way through to daily visits and multiple stretching packages. Contact us today to start your journey to better fitness and mobility.