You might assume that stretching is limited to runners and gymnasts. However, in order to preserve our mobility and ability to function sans pains and creaks, we all need to stretch. Stretching on a daily basis can offer several health advantages. Many people are aware that stretching before activity is essential, but stretching every day, regardless of whether or not they engage in physical activity, is also crucial.
The Importance Of Stretching
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible and strong, which is essential for maintaining the range of motion in the joints. The muscles shrink and become tense if you don’t stretch them. Then, when you put the muscles to work, they are weak and unable to extend fully. You put yourself at risk for joint discomfort, strains, and muscular damage as a result of this.
You may have heard that stretching “cold” muscles isn’t a good idea, lets take an example, sitting in an office all day tightens the hamstrings in the back of the thigh, making it more difficult to extend one’s leg or straighten one’s knee fully. Similarly, tight muscles may be harmed if they are suddenly required to perform a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis. Injured muscles might not be able to support the joints, causing joint damage.
Stretching regularly keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible, preventing them from being put under a lot of strain. Muscles that are in good shape help a person with balance issues avoid falls by providing support.
Top 10 reasons why you should stretch
1. It enhances range of motion and muscle flexibility. Stretching may aid in the preservation of your joints since it improves your range of motion.
2. It might help you avoid getting hurt. If you have to make a quick movement, a flexible muscle is less likely to be injured. You can decrease the resistance on your body’s muscles as a result of stretching by expanding the range of motion in a particular joint.
3. Stretching aids in the relief of muscular aches and pains. Stretching your muscles after a hard workout helps to keep them limber and reduces the shortening and contracting effect, which can cause post-workout aches and pains.
4. Improves posture. Stretching the lower back, shoulders, and chest muscles helps to maintain your back’s proper alignment and posture.
5. It relaxes you, allowing you to sleep better. Stretching helps decrease or manage stress. Muscles that are properly stretched hold less tension, which can make you feel less stressed.
6. The most common cause of back pain is muscular tightness, which causes a restriction in the range of motion. Muscle tightness can lead to a variety of issues including reduced blood flow, reduced mobility, and decreased strength. Muscular relaxation is improved by stretching.
7. Improves mechanical efficiency and overall operational effectiveness. A flexible body, because it requires less energy to traverse a wider range of motion, generates more energy-efficient activities.
8. It helps the body prepare for the stress of exercise. Stretching before you exercise allows your muscles to loosen up and improve their ability to withstand the impact of activity you choose to perform.
9. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles and joints, allowing for greater nutrient transport and improved circulation.
10. Decreases the likelihood of having a herniated disc. Hamstring, hip flexor, and pelvic-floor muscular flexibility decreases stress on your lumbar spine, which lowers your chance of suffering from a herniated disk.
The essentials of stretching
Before you begin stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch at any time, any place, good technique is essential. Stretching incorrectly may cause far more damage than good.
Keep these suggestions in mind to keep stretching safe:
- Don’t consider stretching as a form of warmup. If you stretch cold muscles, you risk injuring yourself. Warm-up with a little walking, jogging, or cycling at a low intensity for 5 to 10 minutes before stretching. Even better, stretch when your muscles are warm following your workout.
- Stretching should generally be avoided before an intensive activity, such as sprinting or track and field sports. Some study indicates that pre-event stretching reduces performance. Stretching immediately before an event has also been discovered to reduce hamstring strength.
- Also, consider going for a “dynamic warmup.” A dynamic warmup entails performing movements similar to those in your sport or physical activity at a low intensity level before gradually increasing the speed and intensity as you get warmed up.
- Make an effort for symmetry. Every person’s flexibility is a little different. Rather than trying to achieve the flexibility of a dancer or gymnast, concentrate on having equal side-to-side flexibility (particularly if you have a history of prior injuries). Inability to balance equally on both sides might be a risk factor for injury.
- Pay close attention to larger muscle groups. Concentrate your stretches on crucial muscle groups, such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Make sure you stretch both sides and to stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use.
- Don’t bounce as you stretch. Without bouncing, extend and stretch in a smooth manner. Bouncing as you stretch can cause muscular strain and contribute to muscle tightness.
- Hold your stretch. Breathe normally and hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds; in problematic regions, you may need to keep them for around 60 seconds.
- Don’t aim for discomfort. Expect to feel tension, not pain, while you’re stretching. You’ve gone too far if it hurts. Aim to hold the stretch where you don’t feel any pain.
- Make stretches sport-specific. Some research indicates that it’s advantageous to perform stretches that target the muscles used most in your sport or activity. For instance, if you play soccer, stretch your hamstrings because they’re more prone to hamstring strains.
- Keep up with your stretching exercises. Stretching may take a long time. However, by stretching regularly, or, at least two to three times each week, you can get the most out of it.
- Skipping normal stretching puts you at risk of losing the potential benefits. If, for example, stretching aided you in having a greater range of motion, your range of motion might revert if you cease stretching.
- Create a movement component into your stretching. Gentle movements, such as those in tai chi or yoga, can help you be more flexible in specific activities. These types of workouts might also help reduce falls in older people.
- Remember the “dynamic warmup”: If you’re about to do a certain activity, such as karate kicks or kicking a soccer ball, begin slowly and at low intensity to allow your muscles to become accustomed to it. Then gradually increase the pace.
Know when to be cautious.
Remember, that stretching does not guarantee you will not get hurt. For example, an overuse injury cannot be prevented with stretching. Also, to prevent injury, you need to stretch, but not overstretch.
Another concern about stretching is the possibility of exercise addiction. Some people stretch so much that it interferes with normal daily activities, such as work or school. When stretching becomes addictive or compulsive, it can interfere with performance in sports or physical activities.”
If you have an ongoing ailment or an injury, you might need to modify your stretching routines. Stretching a strained muscle may do more harm than good if you already have a problematic muscle. If you’re worried about any medical conditions, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the best way to stretch.
People used to believe that stretching was necessary to warm up the muscles and prepare them for activity. However, mounting research has shown that stretching the muscles before they’re warmed up can actually hurt them. When your body is cold, the fibers aren’t prepared and may be damaged. If you exercise first, you’ll get blood flow to the area, and that makes the tissue more pliable and amenable to change. All it takes to warm up the muscles before stretching is five to 10 minutes of light activity, such as a quick walk. You can also stretch after an aerobic or weight-training workout.
We hope this article would help you understand how and why stretching can help and how to stretch correctly.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.