I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 10 years now and noticed that very little amount of people do any stretching. It seems like they want to get in and out of the gym as fast as possible. Lately stretching has been neglected and is often seen as unnecessary part of a training routine and more so as a waste of time.
We seem to have forgotten how many benefits we actually can get from stretching for both body and the mind. Here are a few:
1. Improves flexibility
Flexibility is needed to be able to work through the full range of motion. If your muscles are tight it means that they are also shortened and that limits their full range. Stretching will reduce the tension in the muscles allowing you to move easier and prevent an injury. Your movement will stay fluid and joints pain-free (which is very important as we age to be able to stay active).
2. Improves circulation
Stretching increases blood flow throughout the body, bringing oxygen to your muscles and brain which increases energy and focus. It also has benefits in improving your mood (think yoga)
3. Good for posture, aches, pains
If you work in the office and sit at a desk most of the day your posture will suffer. The common back ache is a common result of the haunched back which puts pressure on nerves limiting blood flow and creates muscular imbalances. Stretching lengthens your muscles, reduces tension, increases circulation and corrects muscular imbalances.
4. Mental relaxation
If you ever attended a yoga class or tried meditation you would notice how tranquil you’ve become. Stretching combined with breathing techniques has a similar effect. Connecting your mind and body in the following manner can be very calming thanks to the increased blood flow to the muscles and the brain. You feel physically and mentally relaxed and de-stressed.
5. Helps with exercise
Stretching before a workout gets blood flowing to your muscles and releases synovial fluid which prevents bones from rubbing against each other. This will make all your movements easier and smoother. So called dynamic stretches will actively lengthen your muscles, and slowly warm them up as well as prepare the joints and tendons for the work you’re about to do. Post workout you should do static stretching or foam rolling to cool down the muscles and prevent injury.
Sitting for long periods is a killer for the body, especially the hips, legs and spine. It is crucial to mobilize our hips and spine daily and it takes only a few minutes. Stretching helps with relieving tension and helps to prevent the pain and injury that chronic sitting can lead to.
If you can’t seem to find the time pre or post workout (or you don’t workout at all!) do some stretching right before you go to bed, and try to take some time out and do a few moves in your office chair or while in the bathroom (idea taken from one of my clients 😉).
Your body will appreciate it and thank you for it!
Stretching will do wonders for your body and mind!