Well, I think deep down we all know its TRUE! If you have ever taken the time to focus on stretching, yoga or pilates you would know the feeling of freedom and increased flexibility that stretching can provide.
I must be honest, I prescribe stretches on a daily basis yet I very rarely do them myself. I am finding as I am maturing (a nicer way of saying I’m getting older!) my flexibility is decreasing significantly which is impacting on my mobility. With 2 young kiddies to chase, I really need to be on top of my game both physically and mentally.
But, why is stretching so important?
Stretching improves flexibility. The more you stretch, the more you move your muscles, and the more flexible you become. Over time, stretching will become easier for your body which results in improved flexibility.
Stretching is also beneficial to improve your posture. Poor posture — a common and increasing problem — can easily be reversed and healed with daily stretching. Because stretching strengthens your muscles and encourages proper alignment, your body posture will be less slouched and more vertical.
The more you prepare your muscles for movement, the more your likelihood of injury is decreased. When your muscles are warm and stretched, movement becomes easier and more fluid-like which helps with injury prevention.
Increased Nutrients and Reduced Soreness
Most people know that stretching increases blood supply, but they do not realise that it also increases nutrient supply to muscles. Because stretching allows blood to flow through your body, the nutrients in the blood are being carried and spread throughout your body as well. An increased blood and nutrient supply also help to reduce soreness.
Benefits of Stretching for the Mind
Stretching provides your mind with a mental break. It allows you to recharge and refresh the blood flow throughout your body, resulting in a calmer and more peaceful mindset.
Many individuals carry stress in their muscles. When feeling overwhelmed, muscles tighten acting as a defensive strategy. The more you stretch, the less tense muscles will be. Stretching is a very effective form of stress management.
Because stretching allows for an increased blood and nutrient flow throughout the body, not only will you feel refreshed, but also your energy levels will be increased resulting in an improved sense of invigoration.
There are quite a few myths out there regarding when it is best to stretch and how long you should stretch for. Here are some tips to keep in mind when stretching in order to receive the most benefits.
Stretching is not a warmup activity
There is much disbelief out there stating that stretching should be done before a workout is started. However, this is not necessarily true. Stretching with cold muscles may result in injury. Stretching is most effective when muscles are warm. It is best to stretch after a small bout of physical activity. If you would like to stretch before a vigorous workout, try taking a short walk or jog to warm up your muscles first, next you may start stretching, and then you may begin your workout.
Focus on muscles that are tight
Tight muscles are a result of soreness and stress. When muscles become tight, it is important to pay attention to these muscles first so that blood flow increases, and tension is reduced. Once these previously tense muscles are stretched, movement becomes more fluid-like, and soreness is reduced.
Bouncing while stretching may slightly tear muscles which may lead to scar tissue which further tighten the muscle leading to decreased flexibility and increased soreness. Stretches should be held for about 15-60 seconds and repeated three or four times. The amount of time spent holding stretches depends on how sore you are and which muscles you want to focus on specifically.
Stretch at least 2-3 days per week for at least 10 minutes a day
Stretching does not need to be time consuming. If you take 10 minutes out of your day to stretch and try to do so at least 2-3 days a week you will achieve the most benefits. If you stretch on an irregular schedule, your body will not be able to maintain a consistent range of motion. Because stretching increases your range of motion, it is important to get in the habit of stretching often in order to increase flexibility.
Essentials of Stretching
It is important to understand proper technique. Make sure that you are stretching correctly in order to prevent injury. Incorrect stretching can be harmful to your muscles. If you are injured and already have a tense muscle do not overwork it. If you are stretching and you feel pain, it is absolutely crucial for you to ease up on the tense muscle in order to prevent damaging the muscle even more. Also try to focus on major muscle tendons. These include: neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, pelvis, hips, and legs. When you stretch the major muscles in your body you will receive the most benefits to improve your flexibility throughout your whole body. Finally, remember to keep up with your stretching routine. The more you stretch, the more benefits your body and your mind will receive. Stretching is a great way to take a break from your busy day to recharge and strengthen your body and your mind.
Join me in taking the challenge of stretching 2-3 days a week. I would love to hear stretching triumphs as well as see the improvements at your next session. Don’t know where to start? Need some help? If you would like an individually tailored stretching program, please contact our clinic and book an appointment with Your ProMed Podiatrist. We will assess your muscle flexibility, design a specific stretching program, and guide you through specific techniques to maximise the effectiveness of your program.
Stretching is an extremely important practice to add to your daily routine to be on your way to better health. Even if you are not planning on exercising vigorously, it is still important to stretch in order to receive multiple benefits for your body and your mind.