If you are like most people stretching probably ranks on your list of health priorities somewhere below updating a new workout playlist on your IPod and drinking that delicious kale and celery smoothie your trainer keeps suggesting you try. Although the debate over whether to stretch or not to stretch is ongoing the research shows that the true benefits of stretching are numerous. Below is a list of my top 5 reasons why stretching should be an integral part of your exercise routine.
1. Stretching will Increase your Flexibility and Range of Motion
Improving the flexibility of your muscles actually improves not only athletic performance but also your ability to perform daily tasks. Activities such as bending to tie your shoes, lifting a bag of groceries or running to catch the train home from work all become easier and less tiring. With more flexible muscles you will also significantly reduce your chance of injury during athletic performances as well as daily activities
2. Stretching helps improve circulation
Stretching increases blood flow to our muscles, which brings with it more oxygen. An increase in oxygen brings more red blood cells with helps diminish recover time after exercise or strenuous activity and clear the muscles of waste by products
3. Stretching increases strength
A recent study found that a group of people that were given only stretching for a period of 4 weeks actually demonstrated an increase in strength as measured by their ability to perform on weight machines. The amount of weight they could lift one time — their “one-repetition maximum” — increased an average of 32 percent for knee extension exercises and 15 percent for knee flexion exercises. Their muscular endurance — defined as the number of repetitions they could do at a weight that was 60 percent of their max — improved 29 percent for knee extension and 30 percent for knee flexion.
In addition, the stretching group saw modest gains in other areas. Their vertical-jump distance increased 7 percent and their standing long-jump distance increased 2 percent
4. Stretching promotes improved posture
Frequent stretching keeps your muscles from getting tight and allows for improved posture. When we are able to stand up taller and sit up straighter we reduce the incidence of chronic pain patterns such as neck and back discomfort not to mention we all look better when we stand up straight
5. Stretching reduces stress
Daily stretching relaxes tight muscles and reduces muscular tension that often accompanies stress.
Hopefully the above benefits of stretching will give you a little extra incentive to reach, bend and twist your way to a healthier and happier you. Stay tuned for our next Blog that will explain the differences between static and dynamic stretching.
Christa Gurka, MSPT
Featured image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/rjs1322/1141484557/