When people think of fitness they often only think of cardiovascular and strength training, but there is another important component of fitness that people tend not to consider —stretching.
We all know that stretching is good for you, but most of us rarely stretch. The only time many of us will stretch is if we feel a slight ache or pain. Everyone is told that it is important to stretch but not many people have any idea why we stretch.
Stretching can be explained as when we deliberately flex or extend a specific muscle or muscle group in order to improve the muscle’s elasticity. Thus, resulting in a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion.
As we get older our bodies tend to degenerate. We lose our bodies’ elasticity, our muscle tone, and bone density. The water content in our tendons decreases and as a result, our tendons get stiffer. All these factors can contribute to the natural decrease in our flexibility.
Therefore, it’s so important to not only stretch daily but to stay active to maintain joint flexibility at all ages but more so as we age, if we stop moving it can negatively impact our quality of life and limit you from doing what you love most.
Benefits of stretching:9 Benefits of Stretching: How to Start, Safety Tips, and More (healthline.com)
- Decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion
As we age, our muscles grow shorter and tighter and we become less flexible. As a result, we become more susceptible to injuries. Stretching is an effective way to maintain and increase flexibility. A regular stretching routine will keep you flexible.
- May reduce your risk of injury
A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured if you have to make a sudden move. By increasing the range of motion in a particular joint through stretching, you can decrease the resistance on your body’s muscles during various activities.
- Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains
After a hard workout, stretching your muscles helps keep them loose and lessens the shortening and tightening effect that can lead to post-workout aches and pains.
- Improves posture
Stretching the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest helps keep your back in better alignment and improves your posture
- Helps reduce or manage stress
Well-stretched muscles hold less tension and, therefore, can help you feel less stressed.
- Reduces muscular tension and enhances muscular relaxation
Chronically tense muscles tend to cut off their own circulation, resulting in a lack of oxygen and essential nutrients. Stretching allows your muscles to relax.
- Improves muscle efficiency and function
Because a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements.
- Prepares the body for the stress of exercise
Stretching prior to exercise allows your muscles to loosen up and become better able to withstand the impact of the activity you choose to do.
- Promotes circulation
Improve circulation: Stretching increases the blood flow to the muscles, which not only helps to nourish the muscles, but also helps to eliminate waste byproducts from muscle tissue.
Most people understand the importance of stretching before or after exercise but when else should you stretch?
Stretch periodically throughout the entire day. It is a great way to stay loose and to help ease the stress of everyday life. One of the most productive ways to utilize time is to stretch while watching television.
Stretching before exercise or as part of your warm-up is great, but pre-exercise stretching is not meant to improve your flexibility; its purpose is simply to prepare you for exercise.
The best type of stretching to do before working out is called Dynamic stretching. It is a form of stretching improves speed, agility and acceleration. It involves the active tightening of your muscles and moving your joints through their full range of motion throughout the stretch. These functional and sport-specific movements help increase muscle temperature and decrease muscle stiffness.
The best type of stretching to do after your workout is called Static stretching. Static stretching requires you to move a muscle as far as it can go without feeling any pain, then hold that position for 20 to 45 seconds. You should repeat static stretches two to three times each. Static stretches should be used as part of your cool-down routine to help prevent injury. Using static stretching as a maintenance stretching program will also help reduce your risk of injury.
Another great time to stretch is just before going to bed. This works at a neuromuscular level, as the increased muscle length is the last thing your nervous system remembers before going to sleep. Sleep is also the time when your muscles and soft tissues heal, which means your muscles are healing in an elongated, or stretched position.
So, if you are wondering if it’s possible to become more flexible as we age then the answer is YES, so why not get started straight away. If you are looking for a more personalised stretching programme then get your body assed to determine what areas need working on.
Yours in Healthcare