Ever since your very first PE class in primary school, you’ve probably heard that stretching is important. Despite this, how often have you skipped the stretch at the end of a workout, end of the day or when it would benefit you? Don’t. Stretching is very important for flexibility, range of motion and injury prevention. Incorporating stretching into your daily workouts is a given but including it in your day routine is just as important to health and body functioning as regular exercise. It relaxes your muscles, and increases blood flow and nutrients to your cartilage and muscles. Whether you’re about to start your CrossFit workout or aren’t planning to break a sweat at all today, daily stretching is a healthy habit that really pays off. Here are some of the perks it may provide.
- Greater energy
If you are struggling for a little mid-afternoon energy then stretching for just a few minutes in the afternoon will help invigorate you and give you a great energy boost. Stretching increases blood flow to every part of the body and should give you a greater kick than a coffee.
- Greater coordination and balance
A recent study tested 42 college students to see whether stretching would impact how long they could stay on a contraption called a stabilometer. The students who stretched for 30 minutes beforehand could balance longer than those who sat quietly before they hopped aboard. Researchers think stretching could help with fine-muscle coordination.
- Reduced pain and inflammation
Regular stretching can relieve stiff muscles and creaky joints, but to reap those benefits, it’s important to stretch the correct way. “Avoid the static stretch, or ‘stretch and hold,'” says Michael Ross, MD, medical director for Rothman Institute Performance Lab. “Focus on mobility by doing range-of-motion exercises and soft tissue work with foam rollers.” Range-of-motion exercises include shoulder shrugs, wrist bends, and knee lifts—anything that keeps your muscles and joints moving through (you guessed it!) their full range of motion.
- Reduced stress
Stretching can help reduce both physical and mental stress, as it relieves tight muscles while tricking you into feeling more relaxed. Just don’t overdo it, especially if you’re wound pretty tight: “Stretching should never be forced,” Drass says. “You should be able to relax into a stretch. If you’re in pain, you’re doing it wrong.”
- Better posture
Stretching helps lengthen tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture by relieving aches and pains. With reduced pain, there is a reduced desire to hunch or slouch.
- Improved flexibility
The most established and obvious benefit of stretching is improving flexibility and range of motion. An effective flexibility training program can improve your physical performance and help reduce your risk of injury. By improving your range of motion, your body requires less energy to make the same movements and you also will have more flexible joints thus lessening the likelihood of injuries acquired during workouts or during daily activities.
- Improved stamina
Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. The longer you exercise the more energy you be burning, typically causing one to grow fatigued. With stretching, you can delay the onset of muscle fatigue by ensuring oxygen is efficiently flowing through your blood, thereby increasing your endurance.
- Improves joint health
Stretching is about way more than your muscles, though. It also moves your joints through their full range of motion, increasing the flexibility in your tendons, which connect your muscles to bones, so you’re less likely to suffer from runner’s knee or tennis elbow, Brennan says.
- Improve athletic performance
If your muscles are already contracted because you haven’t stretched, then they will be less effective during exercise. Regular stretching will relax all of your muscles and therefore enable them to be more available during exercise.
As you can see, there are a number of benefits to regular stretching. I would recommend stretching once a day, definitely after exercise, but during the afternoon if you don’t exercise.