Stretching keeps our muscles flexible, mobile, and strong. Learn about the benefits of stretching and how to start a stretching routine
Stretching keeps our muscles flexible, mobile, and strong. By stretching your muscles and the fascia, or connective tissue, that surrounds them, you can relieve tension, reduce body aches, improve your posture, and more.
What are the benefits of stretching?
- Wakes up your body: Your body detects changes in muscle length and movement while stretching and prepares to become active by increasing blood flow. Increased blood flow throughout the body causes you to feel more awake and energized throughout the day.
- Improves flexibility: Stretching allows your muscles to move more effectively, improving range of motion and flexibility and reducing the resistance on your muscles during exercise.
- Prevents injuries: Warm-up stretches reduce your risk of injury by prepping the muscles for peak performance before a strenuous workout. Increased blood flow to the muscles can also help lessen soreness after exercise
- Relieves aches and pain: Releasing muscles that get tense due to prolonged sitting or other activities can provide relief from stiffness and pain. Stretching also promotes joint surface circulation, which reduces arthritic discomfort.
- Reduce stress: Stretching can help relieve the effects of stress on your body. When combined with deep breathing exercises, stretching can help lower your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure, leaving you in a more relaxed state.
- Promotes sleep: Studies have shown that people who stretch on a regular basis fall asleep faster than those who do not.
How to start a stretching routine
While stretching is fairly simple, it’s important to do it mindfully:
- Include it in your daily routine, stretching for 30-45 minutes throughout the day.
- Make sure to set aside a specific time for it (for example, in the morning or before and after a workout).
- Before stretching, perform warm-up exercises such as light walking or jogging for a few minutes.
- Each stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds on each side of your body.
- Begin slowly with a few stretches and gradually increase your capacity over time.
- If your job requires you to sit in one spot in front of a computer for hours, take a break and stretch for 5-10 minutes.
Stretching techniques include:
- Static stretches: Stretch one muscle group at a time until you feel tension and then hold until your muscle feels more relaxed. When stretching deeply into a muscle group, make sure not to hold your breath but to actively breathe through it.
- Dynamic stretches: Use momentum to gradually increase the range of motion of a joint or muscle. Try these before a workout to get your muscles ready.
How can I avoid hurting myself while stretching?
When stretching, it’s important to use the proper form to avoid risk of injury:
- Don’t stretch beyond comfort. Stretch only to the extent that your body allows.
- Don’t stretch if you have a muscle injury. Skip stretching until you have healed.
- Don’t bounce. This can result in muscle/tissue tears.
- Don’t overdo it. Avoid stretching the same groups of muscles too much, as this can cause damage.
- Don’t stretch immediately after eating or drinking. This can cause nausea or discomfort.
Medically Reviewed on 9/9/2021
Top 10 Benefits of Stretching: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/5107/top-10-benefits-of-stretching/
Benefits of Stretching: https://extension.sdstate.edu/benefits-stretching