What are the Main Benefits of Stretching
When you begin exercising regularly, you'll probably hear the term stretching being discussed. Whether from school sports lessons or from gym trainers, you may vaguely recall stretching and consider trying it.
Stretching is recommended before and after exercise but we wanted to know what stretching actually is. So, we've done some research and we've found out what stretching is, the different kinds of stretching, and what the main benefits of stretching actually are.
To find out more about stretching and how it can help you, keep reading now.
What is stretching?
So, what actually is stretching?
Stretching basically means placing the body, or parts of the body, into a position that will elongate and lengthen the muscles and soft tissue associated with the muscles. Continuous stretching, repeated each day, can lead to changes in the muscle. When the muscle changes, other tissue in the area, like tendons, ligaments, and skin, all change with the muscle too.
Stretching is recommended before and after exercising, but different kinds of stretching are required each time. To find out more about the different kinds of stretching, keep reading.
Dynamic stretching vs static stretching
There are two kinds of stretching. These are dynamic stretching and static stretching. We've looked into the difference between dynamic stretches and static stretches and have summarised them below. Take a look now to learn more.
Static stretches are performed without any movement. Usually, a body part is placed into a position that elongates and lengthens the muscle and this position is held, without any movement, for a specified amount of time. This is probably the kind of stretching you remember from school!
Static stretching increases flexibility and is used to cool down after an intense exercise session. This kind of stretching isn't recommended before exercising unless specified by a personal trainer or other fitness professional.
Dynamic stretches involve more movement than static stretches. Dynamic stretches are performed with swinging or bouncing movements and are used to extend your range of motion and improve flexibility.
Dynamic stretches can help to improve speed, agility and acceleration and are the perfect preparation for performance. These stretches are usually used in warm-ups.
Dynamic and static stretches are both used throughout an exercise session and both have lots of physical benefits.
Benefits of stretching: blood flow, tight muscles etc.
Now we understand what stretching is, what the different types of stretches are, and how each one should be used, let's take a look at the benefits of stretching for your body. We've summarised a few of the main benefits below. Check them out now.
Stretching increases flexibility
Regular stretching helps to form changes in the muscle and improve your flexibility. Good flexibility is beneficial for the entire body and can help reduce the chances of muscle strain as well as increase mobility and delay the onset of reduced mobility that comes with ageing.
A regular stretching routine, such as a set of yoga moves that stretch the body, can help to reduce muscle tightness and increase your range of motion.
Stretching increases your range of motion
As we discussed above, with flexibility comes an extended range of motion. As well as increasing flexibility in the muscles, stretching can improve the mobility of joints which can help you enjoy a full range of motion.
Both static and dynamic stretches can help you to increase your range of motion.
Improves physical performance
For better ability in physical activity, stretching is where it's at. Warming up using dynamic stretches is one of the best ways that you can prepare your muscles for exercise and boost your athletic performance.
Stretching could improve circulation and blood flow to your muscles
Regularly stretching can actually improve your blood circulation. With improved circulation comes more muscle stamina and reduced recovery times. This improvement can lead to reduced muscles soreness after a workout and a reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness.
Stretching helps to improve your posture
Poor posture can be caused by muscle imbalances and so regular stretching can help to build muscle and correct this. Regular stretching can reduce musculoskeletal pain and improve alignment.
Stretching is thought to be a good way to prevent back pain
Not only can stretching help to heal back injuries by increasing the range of motion, but it can also prevent any further pain. Stretching can help while strengthening the back muscles, improving posture and making back pain less likely.
Stretching is great for when you feel stressed
Tension in your muscles is common with stress and so stretching regularly can help to release some of this pressure, making you feel good again! Focusing on areas like the neck, shoulders, and back can help to quickly relieve stress from the body.
A really good exercise for stress relief is yoga. This kind of stretch-based exercise is fantastic to help you feel calm and still again. Stretching is like the exercise version of aromatherapy oils!
Stretching can calm and still your mind
As we discussed above, the release of stress can help to make you feel calmer. While stretching, try practising mindfulness and using deep breathing techniques to focus the mind and push out negative thoughts.
Stretching can help soothe headaches
Headaches can sometimes be caused by pressure and tension in the body, particularly in the neck and shoulders. Indeed, chiropractors frequently use stretching to release this tension. Regular stretching can aid recurrent headaches and migraines.
A note on safety when stretching
Though stretching is about pushing your muscles to their limits, you should always practice stretches with caution. If you feel overwhelming pain then do not continue.
Stretching is an integral part of exercising. It should be done before and after a workout session to allow the muscles to warm up and cool down. Stretching comes with its own benefits too, along with the support of other exercises.
Stretching can increase blood flow and circulation, increase range of motion and flexibility, and help you to feel less stressed and calmer in yourself. Stretching is great for the body and should be done even when you haven't been exercising.
Try yoga as a form of stretch-based exercise, or aim to stretch when you have been sitting at your desk for a long time to ensure you allow blood to flow and tension to be released!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the benefit of stretching every day?
Stretching every day can help you in a range of ways. It helps to elongate muscles, allow for change within the muscle. Stretching can improve flexibility and offer you a full range of motion. Stretching before exercise can boost your athletic performance and help to warm your muscles up before you exercise as well as cool them down when you finish. Stretching is also good for improving blood flow, releasing tension and helping you to feel more relaxed.
Does stretching tone your body?
Yes. Stretching helps to strengthen muscles and improve your flexibility. This helps you to build muscle and can help to tone your body. As an exercise practice, yoga is focused on stretching the body. Yoga is known to build muscle and help you to feel fitter. If you want to tone up, try adding stretching into your exercise routine to see the differences.
Can stretching make your muscles better?
Stretching helps to improve blood flow to the muscles. This helps to reduce recovery times and boost your muscles ability to move. Muscle is built during recovery and so, if your muscles can recover quicker because of improved blood flow, they can build muscles quicker. This means that stretching can in fact help you to build bigger and stronger muscles.
How long should I hold a stretch?
When performing static stretches, you need to hold your stretches. This kind of stretching is done without any movement and so all of the stretching comes from the elongation of the muscles you are stretching. Holding the stretch helps to increase blood flow and release tension in the muscle. Stretches should be held for between 30 - 60 seconds. Stretching involves pushing your muscles to their limit, and so, if your stretch begins to hurt a lot you should stop performing it.
What happens if you don't stretch?
Stretching is used to, both, warm the muscles up and cool them down. Not being properly prepared for exercise can lead to an increased risk of muscle soreness and damage and so stretching is essential before exercise. If you do not stretch after a workout session, you may find that your recovery time is longer and you have more muscle soreness during this time.