Why Stretching Is Important
Are you a hardcore workout warrior who thinks stretching is a waste of time? If so, you may want to rethink your stance.
Aside from the fact that rethinking one’s stance is always a healthy action to take, in this case, it could save you from a lot of pain.
Because the reality is, stretching is important. We’ll take a look at the myriad reasons you should start including it in both your exercise and even daily routines.
Why Stretching Is Important
At its most basic level, stretching keeps your muscles flexible, lean, and long. Why is this important though?
Having long, lean, and flexible muscles will go along way toward the following:
1. Preventing Injury
If you don’t regularly stretch your muscles, they will shorten and become tight. You’ll notice this when you call on them to act in a specific way and they’re unable to give you what you need.
For example, if you sit in a chair all day without stretching, your hamstrings tighten. This can inhibit even just the basic movement of walking and increase your risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage from taking this simple action.
Or if you try to stretch tight muscles too quickly by engaging in a more strenuous activity such as running or circuit training, you could easily damage them. And injured muscles cannot support joints.
By stretching first though – particularly before physical activity – you’re bringing blood flow to the muscles, decreasing tightness, and increasing the range in which the muscles can move. This highly decreases the likelihood of injury.
2. Improving Posture
The muscles of the chest, back, and hips are key in holding up your torso and contribute toward good posture.
If these muscles become tight, it can lead to poor posture. One of the biggest culprits is technology.
If you spend any amount of time sitting at a computer or using a tablet or phone, you’re likely rounding your shoulders forward and putting strain on your neck. Sitting this way for extended amounts of time will negatively impact your posture.
Getting a juicy stretch into the upper trapezius, pectoralis, and hamstring muscles on a regular basis can counteract this.
3. Increasing Range of Motion
Without the flexibility that results from regular stretching, it becomes more difficult to maintain a healthy range of motion in your joints.
When we’re younger and our joints have freedom of movement, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll tighten as we age. But that’s just the reality. So establishing a stretching routine while younger will counteract this progression.
Even if joint mobility is already compromised though, stretching can still help to improve and increase that range of motion.
4. Decreasing Muscle Soreness
Sometimes a particularly challenging workout can leave you with muscle soreness the day after. This will be even more pronounced if you didn’t stretch after your workout.
Either way, stretching into muscles that have tightened up as a protective response is going to bring you some relief from pain and soreness.
5. Providing Stress Relief
When you experience physical and emotional stress, it shows up in the body. This is particularly the case with your muscles. They tighten up in response to this stress.
For many of us, we hold this stress in specific areas of the body more than in others. The neck, shoulders, and upper back are three of the most common places.
By participating in a regular stretching routine, you will free up some of this tension and stress. This, in turn, will calm your mind.
If you’ve ever wondered why yoga is so popular, this is a big component. Not only do you gain flexibility, but focusing on mindfulness and meditation during stretching gives you a mental break as well.
Decades ago, the belief was that stretching before physical activity would help warm up muscles and prepare them. Now, research has shown that exercising first allows for blood flow to the muscles that will make them more pliable and receptive to stretching.
This could be five to ten minutes of a light activity like walking. Then just start with a few simple and gentle stretches to open up the body and stretch the muscles safely.
You may start by only stretching after a workout or athletic event, which is fine. But even just five to ten minutes of stretching each day when you’re not doing a workout can improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness and pain.
If you’re brand new to stretching, you may want to get guidance from a highly qualified Pilates instructor or yoga teacher. They will provide you with a solid grasp of proper form and technique to greatly minimize the risk of injury.
For example, counter to what exercise “gurus” were saying a few decades back, today’s experts will advise you don’t bounce while in a stretch (unless instructed to do so by a physical therapist).
They’ll also help you to find the sweet spot in stretching your muscles. You’re looking for the place where any more would be too much, but any less would not be enough.
They will also advise you against the “no pain, no gain” mentality. This is not the case with stretching. Pain is a sign you’ve gone too far and you’re running the risk of over stretching the muscle and causing damage.
And finally, as mentioned above, they’ll remind you to not go into stretches cold. In other words, give the muscles a little movement and blood flow before moving into a gentle stretch. Then after your workout, sink in and feel the stress melt away.
Improve Your Workouts With Stretching
We hope you have a better grasp now of why stretching is important and not something to be seen as merely a chore.
If you’d like to add stretching to your workout routine, but aren’t sure where to start, contact us today.
Our highly trained Pilates instructors and physical therapist can advise you on the safest ways to start adding this important component into your movement regimen.