When you go to the gym you always see people stretching, the same is true for athletes before the big game, and heck, Yoga and Pilates are both forms of exercise that are based mainly around stretching. You may think that stretching is useless, but you could not be more wrong. After all, athletes and hardcore exercise enthusiasts wouldn’t stretch before and after any kind of physical activity if it didn’t actually hold any benefits.
The benefits of stretching are quite vast and it can do a whole lot more for you than just make you look funny as you do the downward dog. Keep reading to find out just how many benefits stretching can bring you!
Benefit 1: Increasing Your Flexibility
Something that stretching on a regular basis can do for you is to increase your flexibility and your range of motion. Simply put, stretching makes your muscles looser and it also helps to slowly lengthen them over time. Looser, more limber, and longer muscles allow you to be more flexible.
Being more flexible of course increases your range of motion and allows for increased physical output and performance. Being more flexible is very important for a number of different reasons and it isn’t just because it can help increase your physical performance. Being more flexible also helps to do things like relieving daily pains, helping you move faster, helping you lift more, and it can also go a long way in reducing the chances of suffering from injuries.
Slipping and falling is bad enough, but slipping, falling, and spraining a muscle or joint can be avoided thanks to stretched out muscles. Being more flexible also means that it takes less energy to complete any particular motion, and using less energy is of course beneficial because it lets you save that much-needed energy for other more important tasks.
Benefit 2: Provide For Better Posture
One of the biggest benefits that you can reap from stretching on a regular basis, especially before and after exercising, is that it can help you to greatly improve your posture. The reason that stretching helps to improve your posture is because bad posture can be caused by tight muscles that pull your body away from its intended natural position.
Stretching helps to limber up your muscles, keep them loose, and thus keep your whole body in the position which it is supposed to be in. Tight muscles can cause your back to hunch and the rest of your muscles to tighten which can limit mobility, and cause some serious pain too.
Stretching, especially your back, shoulders, and chest helps to limber up your muscles and that has the effect of keeping your spine in proper alignment, plus it helps to relieve aches and pains as well, thus also reducing the desire to slouch. With just a little bit of stretching, you will find yourself straighter and standing taller without a doubt.
Benefit 3: Increasing Your Energy Levels
Yet another huge benefit that comes along with stretching on a regular basis is that it can actually help you increase your overall energy levels.
First of all, stretching helps to increase the circulation of blood throughout your body and that counts for your brain too. Having more blood flowing to your brain means that you are more alert and also that your brain has the ability to produce an increased amount of beneficial neurochemicals, both things which go a long way in making you feel more energetic.
Furthermore, when you feel tired it causes your muscles to tighten and it makes you feel lethargic, the same is actually true in the opposite direction, sore and stiff muscles make you feel tired. When you feel tired you can get up and do a few stretches to get the blood flowing and to loosen up your muscles, thus giving you a quick energy boost. If you feel tired all of the time, doing some regular stretching may just be the solution that you need.
Benefit 4: It Helps Increase Your Stamina
The next big thing that stretching on the regular can help you accomplish is that it can actually go a very long way in improving your stamina and overall physical endurance. As we mentioned before, when you are stiff it takes an increased amount of energy to do anything and everything that involves physical movement.
However, when you are nice and limber it requires less of your energy in order to complete those movements. What this means is that you will be able to do more physical activities with the amount of energy that you have. Another way in which stretching helps to increase your overall physical endurance is by relieving muscle fatigue and increasing the amount of blood that can flow to your muscles.
When you have better circulation and an increased amount of blood flowing to your muscles, it means that there is more oxygen, minerals, and proteins flowing to your muscles. More of those substances being supplied to your muscles means that they can work harder and they can work for longer too. More blood in your muscles means that muscle fatigue is reduced and that is great for exercising, for playing sports, and for everyday life as well.
Benefit 5: Decreasing The Risk Of Injury
Another big benefit that you can get from stretching before and after exercising, as well as simply stretching on a regular basis is that it can greatly reduce the chance of suffering from injuries such as pulled or tight muscles.
When you are exercising and you haven’t bothered to stretch beforehand, your muscles are usually quite tight, not very limber, and they often have trouble achieving their full range of motion. Therefore, when you exercise and you move too fast or you move a muscle too far in a direction which it is not used to moving, you can pull it or even tear it because of that.
Having limber muscles means having a wider range of motion and more flexibility, thus reducing the chances of suffering from a pulled or torn muscle. Of course, this can also be very useful in your everyday life. Slipping on the ice, running up the stairs too fast, or even stretching too hard when you go to get out of bed can all lead to injured muscles and all things that can be avoided with some simple muscle limbering stretching.
Benefit 6: Better Blood Circulation & Recovery Time
As we mentioned before, stretching on a regular basis goes a long way in improving blood circulation. Of course, an increased amount of blood flowing to your muscles means an increased level of physical performance thanks to more oxygen being pumped into your muscles, but that is not all. Another thing that an increased amount of circulation does for you is to decrease recovery time after a strenuous weight lifting or other workout sessions.
Doing hardcore weight lifting and other strenuous exercise causes micro tears to form in your muscles, which in itself is not a bad thing. These little tears heal and as they heal they create more muscle tissue, thus increasing the size of your muscles. The problem is that your muscles need recovery time to let those tears heal.
Without enough recovery time before your next workout, you will actually end up making more and more of these micro tears, thus causing your muscles to take damage and degrade. An increased amount of blood flow to your muscles means more oxygen and nutrients being delivered to them, something which is absolutely necessary for quick muscle recovery.
There are also other things that increased circulation can do for you, such as helping your organs function better and more efficiently. After all, your organs need blood to function and the more blood they get the better they do.
That still isn’t all though, because an increased ability for your blood to freely move throughout your body means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump that same blood around your body. This means that your blood pressure will lower, plus your resting heart rate will lower, all thanks to the fact that your heart doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to do its job.
Benefit 7: Controlling Cholesterol
Something else that stretching can help you do is to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in your veins and arteries. As we talked about before, stretching can help lower your blood pressure. Having high blood pressure causes your arteries to stretch too far and form small tears. Those small tears are ideal places for cholesterol to build up.
Therefore, having lower blood pressure means having less of these little tears in your arteries, and fewer tears mean that there are fewer places in your arteries for cholesterol to build up. Moreover, having better blood circulation also means that you have faster flowing blood, thus also making it harder for cholesterol to build up.
Benefit 8: Reduction Of Pain
Stretching is also a fantastic thing to do because it can help to reduce muscle pain. Muscle pain can be caused due to working out too hard and lifting too much weight, something that has to do with those micro tears we mentioned before.
Muscle soreness and fatigue is in part caused by those suffering from too many micro tears, or in other words, you did curls with the 75-pound dumbbells when you should have been using the 50 pounders. Anyway, the decreased recovery time that you have to go through thanks to increased blood circulation also goes a long way in reducing the pain suffered from way too strenuous workouts.
Moreover, muscle pain can also be caused by overly tight muscles and a lack of flexibility. Stretching can go a very long way in reducing the pain caused by tight muscles. This is especially true for back pain which can be relieved by using something like a foam roller to stretch it out.
Benefit 9: Make You Feel Happier
Yet another benefit that you can get from stretching all of the time is that it can make you feel happier. Stretching is a very light form of exercise, one which helps to promote the production of endorphins by your brain.
Exercising causes your brain to increase its production of certain neurochemicals such as serotonin, a chemical which helps produce feelings of joy, happiness, and elation. Not only does serotonin make you feel happier, but it can also help you deal with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Furthermore, increased physical performance makes you feel happier and more confident for the simple reason that you know you can do more and that will definitely make you feel happy. Another way in which stretching can help improve your mood is because it helps to reduce pain. Pain is not a nice thing and can definitely put a damper on your day, thus being pain free will put a smile on anybody’s face.
If you haven’t already started stretching, you might want to give it a serious try. As you can see, there are 10 huge benefits of stretching that you can get from not only stretching before and after exercise but on a regular basis in general. Stretching will make you feel happier, make you more flexible, help you balance better, and so much more.
Reprinted with permission from Fit and Me.
About the author:
Eric is the content manager at Fit & Me. Fit & Me is dedicated to helping you achieve your health and fitness goals, and transform your body by offering the best fitness equipment and knowledge you need.