Why is stretching so important?
It’s been drilled into us since primary school in P.E. class, and it’s become routine in our personal training sessions, but why is stretching so important?
We’ve come to expect the standard stretching session at the beginning and end of every gym session or Pilates class. In fact, even if we don’t understand the real reasons behind stretching, many of us follow our instructors without question. It’s important, however, to understand the ‘why’ behind it all. Not only will this help you to appreciate the importance of stretching but learning new things about our bodies might encourage us to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Our body uses over 600 muscles to keep us moving, so it makes sense that they receive some extra attention in order to maintain optimal health. Stretching plays a huge part in improving and preserving muscle health and it takes less effort than you realise to incorporate into your routine.
Stretching as little as 2-3 times per week and using the right techniques, will make a noticeable difference to your flexibility and overall wellbeing. While you may not achieve contortionist level flexibility, we’re more concerned about the life-long health benefits that stretching provides. Here are some of the advantages associated with a routine of regular stretching:
1. Increased flexibility
Pushing your muscles beyond their elastic boundaries is a very common cause of painful injury. This is because you have limited motion when your muscles are tight and not conditioned for unexpected weight or movement.
To avoid this, don’t jump in and start too aggressively, as ‘binge stretching’ can be quite dangerous. Increase your flexibility in increments with a gentle stretching program. An added bonus, regular stretching will also positively impact your ligaments, tendons, nerve channels and other connective tissues.
2. Improved coordination
To put it simply; stretching helps our muscles work better. Improving their efficiency with regular stretching will provide you with enhanced balance and coordination. You can liken your body to a motor vehicle, with your well stretched muscles representing the difference between brand new or old tyres.
3. Safe exercise
Stretching is a large part of the warm up and cool down process before and after a workout. Dynamic stretching gently puts your muscles through a range of motion and better prepares your body for the hard work to come, ensuring a safer and more productive workout.
4. Senior health
Our soft tissues naturally weaken and deteriorate as we age, which can drastically affect our mobility. There are many things we can do to preserve our muscle health and slow down this process, one of them being stretching. Stretching is a very low intensity alternative to other high impact exercise, which means even the elderly can safely perform most exercises with little risk of injury.
5. Energy boost
Stretching boosts the flow of blood and oxygen to your muscles. Not only does this contribute to the health of your muscles, but the increased circulation to the soft tissue results in a natural spark in your energy levels.
6. It feels good!
Stretching is something we all instinctively do, even without being told by our physio or Pilates instructor. Whether after a long car journey, waking up in the morning, or when sitting at a desk for too long, we do it because it makes us feel relieved and refreshed!
Everyone can benefit from stretching by including a sensible routine into their everyday lifestyle. We want to guide you on your health and wellness journey; contact your local Motion Health practice where our qualified physios can help prescribe suitable exercises for your lifestyle and fitness routine.