Everybody has heard that you should be stretching before and after workouts, but the reality is that many people have something to do or somewhere to get to and decide to forgo stretching. Stretching is extremely important, not only to those who are avid fitness enthusiasts, but for everybody. Stretching has a variety of benefits and can greatly increase your quality of life. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy and we need this flexibility to maintain a healthy range of motion in the joints. Here are some concrete reasons why daily stretching should become an integral part of your routine, whether you are an athlete or not.
- Decreased Stress
Stress can create a number of negative responses in the body, including increased feelings of anxiety, fatigue and tension. Regular stretching has been shown to reduce mental tension and when combined with breathing techniques, can also be helpful in decreasing anxiety and depression.
- Reduced Pain and Stiffness
Excessive tension of the muscles in your body can greatly increase discomfort throughout the body. Studies have shown that regular static stretching can help to decrease pain levels and stiffness, especially in people with neck or lower back pain. It has also been shown that regular stretching can help reduce the frequency and severity of muscle cramps.
- Improvement in Overall Health
Regular performance of different exercises, whether it be static or dynamic stretching, as well as stretching from mind-body exercises, such as yoga, can help to reduce blood pressure, as well as heart rate and breathing rate which counteracts the body’s normal responses to stress.
- Enhanced Range of Motion
This is probably the most obvious benefit of regular stretching, but it cannot be understated. Stretching, combined with foam rolling, can greatly enhance unrestricted movement of joints, including areas that are in frequent use and designed to be mobile, such as the shoulders and hips.
- Improved Function
Poor posture, improper body mechanics and repetitive movements can cause the body to become chronically tense, contracted and tight, causing them to become weaker and more supple. Regular stretching can counteract this by improving overall function and quality of life and ensuring that the body can have the ability to respond to stresses imposed on it by different movements.
- Reduce Risk of Injury
Although the medical literature is far from definitive on the subject, there is good evidence to suggest that regular stretching can help reduce the risk of injury. Dynamic stretching, often used as part of a warm up, increases the body temperature and work to functionally prepare the body for the movements that are still to come. This is why stretching is considered a core part of injury prevention, as cold muscles, ligaments and tendons can tear much easier than warm muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Improved Blood Flow and Circulation
Regular stretching is proven to increase blood flow and circulation throughout the body. This is incredibly important as this enhances the transport of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body.