The body is flexible. It is supposed to be flexible, you must be able to bend and reach that something you dropped on the floor.
You must be able to zip the back of your favorite dress on your own. You must be able to reach that book you need to read at the top shelf.
These are simple activities. Nothing grand about them, you merely stretched out a bit. However, if there are difficulties in doing such simple motions, then you have to stretch your limits. You already need a stretching program.
What Is Stretching?
Stretching is simply the act of extending to full length the body or simply a part of it. This activity involves straightening or stretching the structure or the limbs.
How Do I Stretch?
Stretching is fairly easy. As mentioned in the introduction, it is involved in the normal activities. It can be done by any people, regardless of age.
However the extent of stretching and flexing differs. The muscles tighten as a person ages. The range of joint movements can be minimized.
This can very well obstruct an on-the-go lifestyle. That is why as the person grows older, bending or flexing becomes more limited. This is why stretching regularly, as part of a routine is very important.
Simple stretches can be done everyday. It can be incorporated in the lifestyle and the daily activities. It does not require much of your time.
Stretching exercises can also be done while training. Actually, stretching is an essential part of any training or sport.
It must be done first before anything else. Stretching the body and the limbs is a good preparation for a more rigorous activity.
Most athletes would do the sit and reach, wherein they position on the floor, extend their legs and reach the tip of their foot with the tip of their hand. Actually, most trainers actually require their athletes to really do the stretching before playing.
There is actually an ideal length of time in stretching. It is best to do it in 10 minutes. This will give the body enough opportunity to move and flex the muscles, thus preparing it for more complicated and strenuous movements.
Experts however would frown upon going way beyond 10 minutes. Stretching the exercise to 30 minutes or more will already wear out the body. This will not be favorable if one is preparing for a game.
What Are the Benefits of Stretching?
1. Increase the Range of Movement
As one constantly do the stretching exercises, the length of the muscles and the tendons are also increased.
This will help in increasing the range of your movement. Thus, the limbs and joints will be able to move, way before an injury can take place.
You are definitely physically fit.
2. Eliminates Lactic Acid
The moment you workout muscles, the body produces lactic acid which makes the muscles fatigued and sore.
Hence, it is important to stretch as stretching eliminates the lactic acid that has accumulated inside the body and also relaxes the muscles.
3. Increased Ability to Perform Skills
When you have a wide range of movement, the more you will be able to do more things. For example, you can jump high without feeling any pain when you land back on the floor.
This will also help you start a new sport or improve more if you are in one.
Stretching in this aspect also allows you to have a more active lifestyle.
4. Gradually slows down the body
When you go through an intense bout of exercise, your body can feel drained and fatigued. But stretching and breathing techniques will help you feel rested and relaxed.
By gradually slowing down the body, as opposed to just stopping cold, you maximize the benefits of your workout.
5. Injury Prevention
One can prevent injury to joints, tendons and muscles with stretching. When the muscles and tendons are well-flexed, they are considered in good working order.
This will help in a faster recovery and decreased soreness. The muscles of the body will be able to take more exhausting and rigorous movements with less probability of being injured.
6. Better Posture
You probably were told several times while you were growing up by your mother or grandmother to stand up straight.
Posture is actually critical for keeping your body healthy.
Proper alignment supports muscular function. When bones and joints are correctly aligned. Muscles are more easily activated and stress on ligaments and tendons decreases.
Stretching can help to naturally better your posture. Because stretching helps strengthen your muscles, you’ll find that standing up straight doesn’t tire you.
Your muscles will support your bones more effectively, and as an added bonus. When you don’t slouch, you look more confident.
7. Reduce Muscle Tension
If the muscles are given their regular exercises and stretching, it is less likely that they will contract. This will definitely relieve you of any muscle pain or problems.
8. Enhance Energy
Being able to move more will also give you more energy. Stretching will also help enhance your awareness. Like knowing that you have a body that is capable of doing many things.
As such, you are going to be more driven to move rather than sulk in the corner.
9. Improved Blood circulation
When you indulge in an intense workout, the body pumps blood faster to the heart making it beat at a rapid rate.
Stretching allows the body to cool down and also helps the heart beat to return to normalcy.
The release of lactic acid during an intense workout is broken with stretching.
This allows muscle recovery and repair. The blood circulation to the muscles is once again resumed with stretching.
This also allows the heart rate to come back to its original resting rate.
10. Reduces Cholesterol
Research also shows that doing prolonged stretching exercises, like yoga, will help reduce the cholesterol in the body.
This of course must be done with a healthy diet at hand. This could prevent and even reverse the hardening of the arteries, allowing you to avoid coronary diseases.
Incorporate stretching in your everyday lifestyle, it has benefits you can not say no to. It also does not require much.
It can be your usual activities, bending and flexing every now and then. After all, your fitness is everything so do what it takes to keep the body healthy.
11. Helps with Arthritic Pain
Inactivity causes muscles to tighten and lose flexibility over time. This eventually leads to possible tears and aches, not only in your muscles but also in the tissues surrounding the joints.
As you age, your joints may develop arthritis which may cause pain and hinder you from performing day-to-day activities like walking, bending down, and reaching for things above you.
Stretching warms up muscles and loosens joints to help you move better. You can also use towels, bands, and other equipment to help you stretch safely and thoroughly.
Dynamic Versus Static Stretching
Stretching is healthy for you. But you need to know when it’s best to stretch and how to stretch so you don’t end up injuring yourself.
You need to identify the best type of stretching exercises for your activities. Should you be doing dynamic stretching or static stretching for the best results?
First, let’s define a couple of different methods of stretching.
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching that uses movement. Rather than bending over your leg and holding the position for a period of time, your body is actively engaged in dynamic stretching.
Think of swinging your legs, arm circles, or gently moving into a stretch and then releasing the stretch.
I want to make a strong distinction between dynamic stretching and quick herky jerky bobbing and bouncing.
Dynamic stretching is slow and controlled. When you bob or bounce during a stretch, you can easily tear your muscles, especially if the muscle isn’t warm.
Static stretching is probably the method you think of first when talking about stretching. This type of stretching is when you hold one position for a period of time without moving to stretch your muscles.
Static stretching can vary in length. You should try to hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t hold a static stretch for over a minute. When you hold a stretch for a prolonged period, you weaken the muscle and increase the risk for injury.
Your tendons and ligaments, the parts of your body that connect your muscles to bones and joints, have added stress when you hold a stretch for a long duration as well. This increases your risk for muscle, tendon, and ligament tears.
You can understand why my lack of technique for stretching – holding a stretch for 30-45 minutes at a time – resulted in torn muscles.
So now that you know the difference between dynamic and static stretching, is one type of stretching better for you or should you avoid one type of stretching all together?
They are actually both great for your muscles. You just need to use them for different purposes.
When to Use Dynamic or Static Stretching
You should use dynamic stretching before a workout.
Static stretching actually reduces your athletic performance when used before exercise. Also, you should always try to do dynamic stretching before exercise.
A study found that dynamic stretching enhanced performance compared to not stretching.
Static stretching is wonderful for using after you finish exercising. Like what I discussed earlier, exercise can shorten and tighten your muscles. Implementing static stretching after exercise lengthens and brings more elasticity to your muscles.
Plus, after a workout, you’ll already be warm, and your muscles will be prepared for deeper stretching.
When to Avoid Stretching
Though stretching has many health benefits, not everyone can safely do certain stretching exercises.
When should you avoid stretching?
Joint sprains: Sprains happen when joint ligaments are overstretched. So stretching that area will only worsen the injury.
Severe muscle strains: Allow an acutely strained muscle to heal before subjecting it to another season of stretching. Stretching stresses the muscle fibers and stretching will add to that.
Bone fractures: Stretching the muscles around an injured bone hinder its healing process and may even displace it further. A broken bone should not be moved or stretched to avoid further injuries.