Whether before or after a workout, chances are that you’ve participated in some sort of stretching routine in the past. If you haven’t, you’ll probably think twice about skipping this valuable pillar of health once you’ve learned about some of the amazing benefits of stretching.
Start by thinking about that fantastic feeling you get from stretching after a solid night of rest. You know when you reach your arms high above your head and lengthen your legs as far down as they’ll go? Well, now imagine having that sensation in all of your other body parts.
As it turns out, there’s a very legitimate biological reason that stretching feels oh so good. This euphoria is the body’s way of letting us know that it wants more.
Why You Should Stretch
You may have some sense that stretching helps improve body flexibility and is generally important to overall health and fitness. But, beyond doing the splits or in an effort to avoid injuries, what exactly are the benefits of stretching?
Here are just a few of the fantastic reasons that everyone from Mr. Olympia and marathon runners to the casual weekend golfer should be incorporating some form of stretching to their list of fitness exercises:
- Improved Blood Circulation – Blood carries vital nutrients to muscles, removes waste from the muscles, and also helps to transport oxygen to the lungs.
- Stretching For Flexibility – The increased blood flow causes muscles to loosen and become more elastic, resulting in an increased range of motion.
- Balance Training and Enhanced Coordination – Better coordination and muscle control will help to vastly minimize the risk of injury due to limited flexibility.
- Reduced Muscle Tension And Stress – Reduced neck and back pain, and natural stress relief. Who wouldn’t want to feel better throughout each day?
- Higher Energy Levels – A natural energy booster, stretching allows more blood and oxygen to flow to the brain, driving better performance and more alertness.
You can’t expect to be your best self without these important health benefits, so ditch the excuses and start stretching today.
How Often Should I Stretch?
By nature, humans are programmed to stretch throughout the day. As mentioned earlier, you’ll notice this tends to happen most naturally before and after waking from sleep. Stretching is a natural animal behavior designed to help relax muscles and joints, relieve stress and tension, and to also help pump blood and nutrients throughout the body.
Today, most working professionals are seated at their desks for 8-10 hours, performing repetitive movements with lackluster posture. Especially when breaks are not taken, these types of conditions may lead to muscle imbalances, a shortened range of motion and painful muscle soreness.
Bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger used to incorporate a lot of flexibility exercises into their routines in order to hit some of the most difficult on-stage poses. Despite his massive size, Arnold needed to be have a lot of mobility in order to properly display his physique.
Staying physically fit and flexible can help reduce to some of the negative stresses and effects that we encounter much too often in our daily lives. Do keep in mind, however, that stretching is just one single aspect of overall health.
For some ideas on how to stretch, check out this comprehensive stretching guide.
If you’re really looking to with a purpose and within a more structured program, I’d actually encourage you to take a look at the age-old practice of Yoga. Here’s an excellent Yoga resource for those who are new or even masterful in the field:
The body needs to move properly in order to pick up heavy weights or to run long distances. The best way to achieve such fluidity is by incorporating stretching exercises into your fitness routine in order to take advantage of the benefits of stretching.
While stretching may seem silly or even a waste of your time, consider that the body acts as a whole and cannot operate at its peak performance if even one component is falling behind.
Always remember to stretch properly, keeping those muscles and joints healthy! What are some of your favorite stretching exercises? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!