We often pay a lot of attention to strength training and cardio exercises. After all, that is the entire point of working out, right? Gaining incredible muscle mass and getting rid of all the excessive fat on our bodies. That may be true to a large degree, but often, we leave out an important aspect of our workout routine – stretching.
Stretching is something whose importance during workouts and standalone exercises cannot be stressed enough. This is because effective stretching acts as a solid warm-up to all weight or cardio-related exercises. It is also something that wakes up the body and pumps life into tired or cold muscles. This being said, let’s look at some of the benefits that result from good stretching:
1. Facilitates flexibility
This is an obvious and often established benefit of stretching. Stretching not only improves flexibility but also results in a greater range of motion in muscles. This means that after a good stretching regimen, the body needs to exert less energy in putting muscles through their routine motion sequence. This results in greater muscular mobility, and the risk of muscle injuries is greatly reduced. Since the muscles are adequately stretched, the body also needs to exert less effort for the same muscle movement. Hence, it is always a good idea to invest around 10-15 minutes in stretching before working out and get the mind and body into that ‘workout mode’ instead of diving right into the exercise routine.
2. Posture improvement
Slumping over the computer screen or staying hunched over a book may seem like a pretty regular thing to do nowadays, but these actions can have a detrimental impact on the body posture. Muscles get cramped and movement is inhibited. As a result of these bodily cues, people adopt unnatural sitting and standing positions. These bad postures are a result of tightened muscles around the body that have not seen regular motion in a long while and consequently, the body compromises on correct posture in order to give respite to these muscles. These tighter muscles shorten over extended periods of non-use. As a result, it is important to stretch them out in order to loosen them and allow them to adopt a more a natural position.
Thoroughly stretching the muscles in the lower back, shoulders, and chest helps keep the spine in a better position, which helps relieve issues like back and shoulder pain. With the absence of pain around the core, the body has less of an incentive to slump and slouch. This just goes to show how helpful stretching can be.
3. Drastic mood improvement
Sometimes, things can make us feel really down in the dumps. Whether it is the tension of that thesis paper that is fast becoming due or some problems with friends, the stress weighing down on our mind can lead to various issues. This is because stress tends to manifest in physical symptoms like knotted muscles and cramped movement. Besides this, stress definitely leads to mental and physical lethargy. This is where stretching helps.
We have already discussed the ‘unraveling’ impact stretching can have on the body. A short, intense stretching routine wakes up the mind and the body quite well. Stretching also eases tightened muscles around the body and facilitates better blood flow. Also, the physical exertion from stretching releases endorphins in the body that provide a sense of calm and happiness to the mind. Once the physical discomfort is gone, you can focus more completely on the tasks at hand.
As a result, stretching can help out in a lot of different ways. The mood boost from stretching can often provide a lot of confidence to the individual. Studies show that people who stretch and make themselves ‘feel big’ in the space around them exude more confidence leading up to important social commitments like job interviews and exams. They also have higher rates of success as a result.
On the other hand, some stretching can help relax the mind and body during the night, especially if sleep proves to be elusive. Studies show that some stretching before going to bed helps relieve the daily stress that manifests in forms of cramps or tightness. So, do some stretching before bed and have a more comfortable sleep.
4. Improvement in stamina
Getting the muscles into action and forcing them into a bit of discomfort via stretching can actually be beneficial for your exercise regimen in the long run. Stretching loosens up tight muscles, increases blood flow to the joints and tendons, and provides oxygen to the stretched muscles. All this means that the muscles in the body are able to sustain greater effort and will get less tired due to cardio training or weightlifting. Also, stretching will help you achieve better form during the exercises, and you will be able to do deeper lunges and squats, which are bound to draw admiration from your peers.
5. Helps out the body in the long run
Stretching improves blood flow to various parts of the body. The increased blood flow reduces soreness that happens after a workout and lessens the time it takes to recover. This increased blood flow also promotes cellular and muscular growth by initiating the process of nutrient dispersal around the body. This helps sustain and grow muscle mass.
Besides this, it has been found that stretching can keep blood sugar levels under control. A study found that adults diagnosed with diabetes who stretched for 40 minutes after drinking a sweet beverage had lower blood sugar levels than their counterparts who did not actually stretch or exercise.
This goes to show how stretching can benefit us in the long run and protect against diabetic complications and muscles atrophy later on in life.
Stretching gets a bad rap sometimes. It’s not as glamourous as power lifting, nor as visibly intense as cardio. However, this simple aspect of your workout can have a lot of positive and profound effects on your physical fitness.