Stretching, in its simplest definition, is a physical activity that elongates the muscles. Whether it’s before a big game or after doing Zumba, many people stretch to loosen their tight muscles. But, what exactly is the importance of stretching to the body? And aside from the physical, does it offer other mental benefits?
The Importance of Stretching
Before we talk about the mental benefits of stretching, let’s first discuss its effects on the body.
Flexibility is the body’s ability to move the joints in a certain range of motion. If you want to check your flexibility, you can try reaching your toes when bending forward. If you cannot reach your toes, you may have stiff muscles.
Without stretching, your muscles may get tight or they may shorten. Hence, if you stretch regularly, you can improve your flexibility over time.
When you stretch, you significantly add more synovial fluid which lubricates your joints.
Helps in Increasing Your Efficiency
When you are flexible, your movements are more efficient because you need less energy to move in a wider range of motion. On top of that, stretching also results in increased coordination.
Think about someone who has a stiff back. Typically, they will move more slowly because even normal movements may hurt them. This considerably decreases their efficiency when performing daily activities.
Helps in Achieving Proper Posture
Many people do not know it, but stretching also strengthens the muscles and helps align them. Hence, with regular (preferably, daily) stretching exercises, your posture will be less of a slouch and more upright.
Stretching Can Prevent Injuries
Many athletes and gymnasts know that the importance of stretching extends to injury prevention.
Think about it, some people injure themselves when they make sudden movements while others are not hurt at all. Experts say that injuries happen because the muscles “resist.”
Improving flexibility, which increases the range of motion by which the joints can move, will help decrease the resistance. Therefore, it will help in injury prevention.
Stretching Reduces Soreness and Relieves Pain
Do you feel sore especially after a hard work out, game, or sport? If so, you might want to stretch a little bit since it can increase blood supply to the muscles. What is even better is that as your muscles receive more blood, they will also receive more nutrients. This helps soothe soreness.
Additionally, after working out, you may feel a little achy due to muscle tightness. When you stretch, the muscles “loosen up,” helping to decrease the pain.
The Mental Benefits of Stretching
Now that we have talked about the benefits of stretching to the body, let’s discuss its mental benefits.
Stretching Relieves Stress
There are a lot of symptoms to stress, but perhaps one of the most notable is the feeling of tension in your muscles.
You may have already experienced it: when a stressful situation happens, you feel tense in one part of your body or all over. When the source of stress disappears, you relax and breathe easier.
The importance of stretching also encompasses stress reduction. Yoga, a highly recommended exercise, has a lot of stretch poses and is done to relieve stress and anxiety.
Calms the Mind
Aside from reducing stress, clearing the mind is also one of the mental benefits of stretching. Of course, this benefit does not come without effort.
Experts advise that to calm the mind while stretching, you need to incorporate it into other exercises such as meditation and breathing techniques.
Reports even indicate that if you want a “new outlook,” you can consider stretching for a few minutes.
Stretching Makes You Feel Better
Studies show that when you stretch, your body releases the endorphins, also known as the happy hormone. Not only do endorphins help in pain relief, but they also give you a certain feeling of happiness.
Think about running. After running a certain distance for your workout, you often feel happy because you have accomplished something. The same is true with stretching.
The Health Impact of Skipping Stretching
If you do not stretch regularly, you may experience a lack of flexibility due to your muscles’ limited range of motion. This will lead to several other negative effects like pain, inefficiency, and even injuries.
The other health impacts of not stretching are:
It Leads to Unhealthy Joints
Doctors say that for the joints to maintain their optimal health, they must have adequate blood and nutrient supply. Additionally, they must also move with their full range of motion.
Although you can improve circulation through other forms of exercise, stretching is still considered the best work out for your joints.
You May Get Tired Easily
Inflexible muscles, according to reports, tire more easily. This is because the muscle groups have to work harder. Remember as well that fatigued muscles are more prone to injury.
It Affects Even Distant Structures
Inflexible muscles may affect or put stress even on the distant structures. According to UC Davis Health, one example that proves this effect is that tendonitis in the knee may be connected to the tightness of the calf.
Before you can finally realize the importance of stretching to the body and its physical and mental benefits, take note of the following reminders:
- Stretching is an exercise on its own, so it is technically not a warm-up activity.
- The truth is you need to warm-up before performing stretches.
- Examples of good warm-up activities are taking a short walk or jogging lightly.
- Breathing is an important part of stretching. Doctors say that you must breathe normally while doing stretching workouts.
- When stretching, always keep your joints at least slightly bent. Keeping them in a hard, straight position may cause injury.
- Stretching should be done slowly and smoothly. Don’t rush and don’t jerk your muscles.
Finally, many experts suggest including the following muscle groups when stretching as they contribute a lot in increasing flexibility:
Once you have decided on the appropriate stretching exercises for you, try to do them 3 to 5 times for each session. If you follow the tips discussed above, you will be able to improve your flexibility and enjoy a great range of motion.
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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.