Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Most people associate fitness with cardiovascular and weight training, but stretching is also an important component of fitness. Stretching should be a part of your everyday routine if you want to achieve and maintain peak fitness. Stretching is essential not just for sports performance but also for overall wellness.
Multiple types of stretching have been shown to provide short- and long-term health advantages in numerous studies. Let's take a look at some of the many benefits.
Benefits of Stretching
Improved Posture: Poor posture can be caused by tight muscles. If the muscles in the chest, back (both lower and upper), and hips are tight, they can create bad posture. Many of us spend at least some of our waking hours seated at a computer or staring at a phone or tablet. The normal stance for these tasks (rounded shoulders and forward head) is a bad posture position. Stretching the pectoralis, upper trapezius, and hamstring muscles, to mention a few, can help.
Improved Wellbeing: Stretching activities like static stretching and stretches from mind-body disciplines like yoga can help to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate, which can help to counterbalance the body's physiological responses to stress and muscle tension.
Stretching Can Help Prevent Injury: This is perhaps the most well-known, but it might also be the most essential, benefit of stretching. The chance of damaging a muscle lowers if you stretch and improve its range of motion on a regular basis.
Improvement in Circulation: Stretching improves blood flow to the muscles, which not only serves to nourish them but also to remove waste byproducts from the muscular tissue.
Relaxation: Simply said, stretching is enjoyable. It's a great way to unwind and calm down after strenuous exercise. Stretching has also been proven to decrease blood pressure and enhance arterial function in studies. It's a stress reliever in and of itself.
Types of Stretches
The most well-known and time-honored kind of stretching is 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. This is a very effective way to increase flexibility. Overall, this is a low-stress stretching technique that can be quite therapeutic.
Dynamic stretching enhances speed, agility, and acceleration. Throughout the stretch, you'll be actively tightening your muscles and rotating your joints through their complete range of motion. These practical and sport-specific motions assist to warm up the muscles and reduce stiffness. Before every athletic event, whether competitive or not, dynamic stretches should be included in your warm-up regimen. 5 to 10 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity swimming, running, or cycling, followed by dynamic stretching, should constitute a thorough sports warm-up. An example of a dynamic stretch would be high kicks.
This form of stretching involves the muscle actively. With the opposing muscle group, maintain the extended position. This stretch method is performed for numerous repeats, but just for two seconds at a time. An active stretch does not require the use of an external force. One arms-over-head side-leaning stretch is an example. The stretch is done without the use of any pulls, pushes, holds, or braces. Active Stretching is a frequent practice in Yoga.
Dynamic stretches are meant to get the body moving, often for a warmup. The stretches aren’t held for any length of time. Static stretches are where muscles are extended and held for a length of time.
Ballistic stretching is a technique that harnesses the momentum of a moving body or limb to stretch it beyond its usual range of motion by "bouncing" it. Ballistic stretching, when done correctly, develops flexibility in the same way as static stretching does, and it may be worth considering for athletes who participate in sports that require ballistic motions. However, some people are concerned about its safety. Ballistic stretching has been linked to an increased risk of muscular damage. The rapid bouncing movement might cause muscle damage. Oftentimes, your muscles and joints are stretched beyond their capacity as a result of these abrupt jerky motions.
When and How Should I Stretch?
Stretching first thing in the morning can relieve any tension or pain from sleeping the night before. The majority of individuals naturally perform some type of "Active Stretching" as soon as they wake up. Static stretching should be incorporated into your morning routine to aid with blood flow and to prepare the body for the day ahead.
You've often heard how important drinking enough water throughout the day is. The U.S. National Academies of Silences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends up to 4 liters a day.
Active stretching should be considered in the same light; you can never get enough active stretching during the day. The more you do, the better. Especially for those of us who work at a desk all day. Muscles must be kept flexible and active.
Static stretching should not be done before exercising. The muscles haven't had an opportunity to warm up yet, and static stretching, while you're still cold, won't help you avoid muscle damage or tearing. This is especially true for your lower body, where the majority of your largest and strongest muscles and joints are located. Instead, you should warm up your muscles with a dynamic stretch such as jumping jacks, butt kicks, or walking lunges.
Static stretching should be done after you finish your workout. After an exercise, everyone is more flexible, therefore this is an excellent time to maximize and receive the most benefit from the stretches. It can help you increase your flexibility, lower your chance of injury, and relax your muscles. It may even assist you in improving your performance the next time you exercise!
Right before bed is a great opportunity to stretch that you probably haven't considered. Stretching before bed can have a massive impact on the quality of your night's sleep. It enables you to let go of some of the stress you've built up throughout the day, enabling your body and mind to relax, allowing you to fall asleep quicker and sleep longer.