What You Need To Know: The 10 Benefits of Stretching
You hear it time and time again: “make sure you’re stretching before and after your workout”.
But so many of us are unaware as to why this is so highly promoted.
Why do we stretch - why is stretching important? And what does stretching do for the body?
In this article, we set the record straight, declare the importance of stretching, and why it is beneficial for our bodies and mind.
10 Benefits of Stretching
1. Prepares the body for exercise
Working out puts your body under a whole lot of stress and so care needs to be taken to ensure that your muscles are fully ready for exercise.
Taking the time to stretch prior to exercise will allow your muscles to loosen, and become better able to withstand the impact of the activity you’re about to carry out. This will ensure that you’re able to perform to the best of your ability, without being held back, and causing problems for yourself further down the line.
2. Improves flexibility & range of motion (ROM)
Flexibility is the ability that a joint, or series of joints, have to move through an unrestricted, pain free range of motion. This is needed to keep your joints and tissues healthy. If the tissues around a joint become inflexible, your muscles can become fatigued and tight, leaving you more prone to injuries like muscle strains.
As we age, our range of motion naturally declines, and so stretching regularly is a great way to counteract this and remain mobile. Stretching our muscles increases the mobility of our joints which, in turn, maximises the potential of the muscle.
3. Enhances athletic performance
A flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, and so a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements. With your new-found mobility, you’ll also find that performing certain exercises are a lot easier than they once were (think sitting deep in a squat).
But, increasing your flexibility won’t just improve your workouts, it can also make every day life better too! There are countless daily tasks which involve having a good degree of movement, and so by regularly stretching you’ll be able to perform these day-to-day movements with ease.
4. Decreases risk of injury
If you stretch and increase the range in which a muscle can move, the likelihood of becoming injured decreases. Stretching, particularly before physical activity, helps prevent injury by bringing blood flow to the muscles, warming them up, and decreasing any tightness they might have. This will help to prevent any strains or tears that could be a result of exercise.
5. Helps to relieve post-exercise discomfort
We’ve all felt muscle soreness after a workout (nasty, right?). Although this is a sign that you’ve been working hard, it’s important not to ignore these symptoms and to put in work to ease your body through the recovery process.
Stretching after a workout will keep your muscles loose, ensuring that they don’t shorten and tighten, and will alleviate the risk of post-workout discomfort and soreness.
6. Highlights bodily imbalances
Stretching can be a great way to identify imbalances in flexibility, or areas of extra tightness in the body. This can then give you a chance to correct those problem areas before they lead to injury.
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7. Improves posture & helps to prevent back pain
As we all spend prolonged periods of time sitting down nowadays, poor posture is becoming an increasing problem. Sat looking at screens tends to leave our bodies in compromised positions as our muscles tighten and shoulders become rounded.
Stretching can assist in bettering your posture - particularly the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest - as these help to keep your back in better alignment. Alleviating this tightness in the muscles can improve the pain you feel in your back as a result of bad posture.
8. Increases blood flow to your muscles
Having tense muscles means that your muscles aren’t receiving the correct amount of oxygen that they should be. Muscles that are tense cut off the circulation and decrease the blood supply to surrounding muscles and joints. As a result, there is lessened nutrient transportation throughout the entire body.
Stretching after a workout increases the blood flow, eliminates the negative effects that tense muscles have, and aids the recovery process.
9. Great for stress-relief & easing anxiety
Well-stretched muscles hold less tension and, therefore, can help you feel less stressed. Stretching not only helps loosen tight muscles, but it additionally eases stress and anxiety. Much the same as with the act of receiving a massage, stretching allows you to get in an environment of relaxation which has positive effects on both the body and mind.
10. Better sleep
With relaxed muscles, less tension, and decreased stress and anxiety levels, you’ll find that your night’s sleep is of much better quality than if you were to avoid stretching altogether.
Whether you focus on stretching before your workout - to help warm the muscles up, or after your workout - to aid with the recovery process, stretching should never be ignored.
Introducing an additional 10 minutes on to your workout routine where your full attention is on your mobility will mean that your body and mind will thank you (and your performance will be at its peak).
If you're looking for a little inspiration, or a guided stretching routine to assist you, take a look at our Mobility Manual.