What do you think about when you hear the word "stretching"? A pre-workout routine that athletes do? Morning activity of lifestyle bloggers? The main exercise for ballerinas? Sadly, most people think that way and miss their chance to benefit from stretching. Even if you don't match the golden goal of 10,000 steps per day, you still make many different moves. Though if your body isn't flexible and warmed up enough, one day, you'll feel that you hardly can perform some moves and that certain parts of the body feel like they’re made of wood.
Still, you may not have enough time for a full-fledged workout, especially, when you’re in the middle of a complex project. You may not even have time to grab a sandwich between meetings - how can you think about finding time for workouts? Luckily, there are some practices that don’t take much time while giving you all the benefits of a warm-up. One of them is stretching - an easy routine for people who work out often.
You can be an athlete or a busy achiever — stretching is a necessary routine for your muscles, cartilage, and tissues to stay healthy. And that's only the beginning - stretching actually has way more benefits for your body than you can imagine. Read on to discover why stretching is a must-have for everyone and get practical tips on how to perform it most effectively.
Top-6 reasons to start stretching daily
Think about your vehicle - it has its details and process, and if you want it to work flawlessly, you should take care of it. Your body is similar to a vehicle; it also needs regular care, especially when it comes to parts of the body that are constantly tense, like muscles and tissues. So how can stretching help you become healthier?
Stretching may reduce your muscle's rigidity
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, you must know these awful feelings of tingling sensations throughout the body and heaviness in the muscles when you get off your desk. There's a direct link between low physical activity and muscle stiffness. As for scientists, the less you use your muscles, the more they ache. What's more, lack of exercise leads to muscle spasms and chronic pain.
But let's assume - sometimes we can't take control of our lives and let the obstacles win. That's why 42% of people claim they don't exercise because they lack time. Well, exercising in the gym could be too time-consuming for most busy achievers. That's where stretching will come in handy! It takes less than 20 minutes to stretch properly, but you get all the benefits for your muscles. According to a South Dakota University study, stretching helps alleviate muscle stress and avoid back and muscle pain.
Stretching could boost your flexibility
You may think that flexibility is necessary only for athletes and gymnasts. But you also need it - for better mobility and coordination. Flexibility allows you to make different moves easily, giving you the ability to lead an active lifestyle. Plus, your flexibility reduces as you age, shortening your muscles and limiting activities you can perform. By incorporating stretching into your schedule, you'll be able to maintain flexibility for a longer time and slow down your body's aging process.
Stretching is possibly effective for enhancing the blood flow
If you want to work out more effectively and don't feel soreness in your muscles after being on your feet for many hours, stretching may help. Performing it frequently can improve your blood circulation. In turn, a good blood supply increases the supply of nutrients to the muscles, helps to shorten their recovery time, and reduces soreness after exercise. During stretching, your blood delivers more oxygen to the muscles, giving them additional energy to work out longer.
Stretching may improve your sleep regimen
Tossing and turning for hours before falling asleep makes you crazy? Scientists have found that the lack of movement during the day could be the reason for insomnia and sleep disturbance. Mental stimulation has been shown to disrupt sleep quality and interfere with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm of our body’s release of melatonin. Stretching, in turn, is a very effective way to reduce mental stimulation. As such, it reduces the risk for insomnia and other sleep-related disorders.
Stretching helps by increasing blood flow since it increases the release of endorphins, which are hormones that have a calming effect on the body. This in turn helps you relax more deeply and sleep more soundly. So if your goal is a restorative and deep sleep regimen, then stretching may be your tool for achieving it!
Stretching may lower your risks of getting an injury
Even if you don't work out actively, you can still get a severe injury by making sloppy or abrupt movements. You can also get injured if you start exercising without prior stretching. It happens because when performing especially strenuous activity, muscle tissues tear due to excessive mechanical stress. Stretching makes your muscle tissues more flexible and malleable, so they will just stretch instead of tearing during exercises. That's why most athletes don't start their workouts before decent stretching.
Stretching helps you destress
The combination of stretching exercises with deep breathing relieves tension in muscles and relaxes them. You may not notice it, but emotional stress makes your muscles tense and contract. Typical areas that can suffer from stress-related pain are the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Pay sufficient attention to these areas when performing your stretching exercises. In addition, if you have problems with falling asleep, stretching will help you release muscle stress and sleep better.
Stretching may boost your mental clarity
You should be familiar with this annoying “brain fog” when you barely trudge through the day and feel too sluggish to be productive. Such an effect may occur because of a sedentary lifestyle and office work, so adding more movement to your daily routine may help! Stretching is an activity that has become a part of the daily routine for many people, especially those who want to maintain their mental clarity and relax. It is an effective way to reduce tension and stress.
Static stretching helps induce feelings of calmness because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. By practicing it, you may find it easier to stay focused and maintain mental clarity when accomplishing complex mental tasks. In contrast, dynamic stretching stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which causes a short-term increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
Stretching improves your posture
Scientists keep saying that constant sitting is the worst evil of our busy century, that can cause chronic diseases and heart-related issues. The study claims that the average time we spend sitting is 4,7 hours per day, so it's a pretty common problem worldwide. Also, a sedentary lifestyle creates excessive pressure on your spine and neck, which can lead to scoliosis and poor posture syndrome. In turn, stretching exercises can reduce musculoskeletal pain and keep the spine in the correct position.
Main types of stretching exercises
Now, when you've discovered all the benefits of stretching, it'd be a huge waste not to turn it into your daily habit! Let's look at the types of stretching exercises, so you can decide which of them suits you best:
- Static stretching. One of the most common stretching exercises. It involves fixing the body in one position for 15-30 seconds and stretching muscles to the maximum point. You can perform it in response to specific muscle tension or soreness. This type of stretching is suitable for quick relaxation and will not be as effective as a pre-workout routine.
- Dynamic stretching. This type of stretching is perfect for turning your body for a workout. It raises body temperature and allows muscles to contract more efficiently and generate more strength. At the same time, it prepares your heart and lungs for vigorous activity. Plus, dynamic stretching allows your body to efficiently deliver oxygen to working muscles and lengthen them, thereby improving the range of joints' motion. Perform dynamic stretching if you're going to do a strenuous exercise or quick run.
- Ballistic stretching. Suppose your body doesn't get used to physical activity. In that case, we don't recommend you to try this type of stretching because it may lead to injuries. Ballistic stretching involves fast, alternating movements at the end of the range of motion. It's popular among professional athletes and dancers.
- Isometric stretching. Another type of stretching involves creating resistance while stretching the muscles. You can use any equipment during this type of stretching: hands, floor, or walls. This method is much more effective than dynamic and static stretching separately. For example, you can bend one leg and hold the foot with your hands while straightening the leg.
- Active isolated stretching. When performing this technique, you should stretch each muscle separately, as if isolated from the rest for a while. This stretch is excellent for warming up your muscles well both before and after your workout. It reduces the joints' stress and increases the range of motion you can perform. This type of stretching also involves using a rope, belt, long belt, or elastic bandage. With these tools, you can use your efforts to pull the part of the body that you are stretching.
When should you avoid stretching exercises?
Though stretching is highly beneficial to your health in most cases, sometimes it'd be better for you to avoid stretching for a while. You shouldn't perform stretching if you:
- had an injury or muscle strain recently;
- have experienced surgery in the past few months;
- have health issues like osteoporosis, arthritis, and hernia;
- face one of the severe cardiovascular diseases.
Moreover, if you experience discomfort while stretching, stop performing it and consult your physician for further instructions.
Tips on how to stretch most effectively:
- Warm-up before stretching. Most people think that they can get off their desks and immediately start stretching. However, this mindset could be disruptive to your health. Stretching when your body's temperature is low will not benefit you and may even lead to injuries. Just 10-15 minutes of jogging could help you warm up before stretching muscles.
- Stretch as many muscles as you can. Most people think that stretching their legs and hands is enough before exercising. But when you move, your body involves many more muscles than you think. So pay more attention to your back, shoulders, neck, and loin.
- Know your limits. When you start incorporating stretching into your daily routine, start small. Don't stretch your muscles too far, and stop it when you feel pain. After a while, when your muscles are flexible enough, you can try new stretching techniques and tighten your muscles harder.
- Stretch regularly. Building new habits isn't the most straightforward task to accomplish. Though if you don't stretch regularly, you won't manage to make your muscles more flexible. Stick to stretching 2-3 times a week - it will be the most effective plan to stretch muscles and give them some time to recover.
- Combine stretching with yoga moves. If you want to turn stretching into a genuinely relaxing routine, you can mix stretching with yoga. It will help you release stress, boost your blood flow and supply your muscles with oxygen. Plus, it may help you feel like you've just visited a massage session, since both practices help your body relieve strain and maintain mental focus.
- Practise stretching in the morning and before bedtime. To get maximum benefits from your stretching routine, try to practice it twice a day - right after rolling out of your bed and in the evening before falling asleep. Firstly, it will help you fine tune for an active, productive day, supplying your muscles with essential oxygen and blood. Evening stretching session, in turn, will help you reduce strain in tensed muscles after a busy day and prepare them for a decent rest. Opt for a dynamic stretching in the morning for an effective energy boost and static stretching in the evening to wind down quickly.
- Muscle Tension From Lack Of Exercise (2020)
- This Is Why Most Americans Don’t Exercise More (2019)
- Benefits Of Stretching (2019)
- Flexibility: Do I Really Need It? (2016)
- Why Flexibility Can Slow Down Aging… Despite Your Age! (2018)
- Why Stretching Is More Important Than You Think (2017)
- How Muscles Regulate Their Oxygen Consumption (2018)
- Muscle Strain (2019)
- Stretch Your Stress Away—With Other Health Benefits, Too! (2017)
- Worldwide Surveillance Of Self-Reported Sitting Time: A Scoping Review (2020)
- Sitting Disease And Its Impact On Your Spine (2019)
- 3 Main Types Of Stretching (2018)
- 6 Times You Should Never Stretch (2016)
- How To Stretch (2018)
- 7 Stretching Mistakes And How To Avoid Them (2019)