Stretching comes as a part of our everyday life. Whether you realise it or not, we stretch when we’re tried, when we reach for something, when we’re working, and especially when we’re working out.
If you didn’t know already, a short session of stretching can result in a list of health related benefits. One of the most obvious benefits is a significantly reduced change of injury. (But you already knew that…Right?) Check it out:
1. Reduced chance of injury
Most people who take the time to stretch out before and after a workout, are doing so to reduce their chances of getting injured. Which is understandable. This is because most of the time when we hit the gym our muscles are stiff, and tight. This is caused from lack of movement throughout the day, and prolonged periods of sitting.
Think of your muscles as an elastic band. If you pick up the band and pull it, it’ll only stretch so far before it snaps. Still with me? Now if we stretch the elastic band slowly, and controlled, it will eventually be able to go a lot further than it could originally before snapping. Put simply: A combination of static and dynamic stretching will loosen the muscles, and significantly reduce the chances of injury.
2. Improved flexibility
One of the most obvious benefits of stretching, is improved flexibility and range of motion. As you may be able to figure out yourself, increased flexibility and range of motion will contribute to improved performance.
Through a better range of motion, we are able to get more out of our workouts, and increase our results. In addition, through proper stretching our joints release more ‘Synovial fluid’, this fluid lubricates our joints, reducing the chance of injury, and further improving our range of motion.
3. Reduced soreness
Muscle pain or DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) occurs between 24 and 48 hours after intense physical exercise. And you know just as well as I do, that it can hurt like a b#@ch.
The solution? You guessed it. Through a short stretching session our blood circulation improves, thus releasing more lactic acid (Waste produced by our muscles). In addition to this, you can find more helpful methods and remedies to help with the micro tears endured by our muscles: ‘5 way to relieve muscle pain’.
4. Increased blood flow
As we already know by stretching out we can improve our blood circulation and gets more oxygen and nutrients surging around our bodies. Awesome! But it doesn’t stop there. Increased blood circulation is good for overall health, it regulates blood pressure, and contributes to healthier organs.
5. Increased stamina
One of the less obvious benefits of stretching comes in the form of stamina! Stamina is what determines how long we can go for, before our bodies need to rest. For example: Someone who can run for 40 minutes has more stamina than someone who can run for 20 minutes at a similar pace. You get the idea.
So how does stretching help? As we’ve already established stretching improves our blood flow, as well as loosening our muscles and tendons. This allows for more oxygen and essential nutrients to reach our muscles during physical activity.
More Oxygen = More energy and More energy = Being able to perform for longer.
6. Contributes to improved posture
Once again, as we already know stretching loosens up our tight muscles. However, what you may not know is that tight muscles can pull our body out of alignment resulting in poor posture. As previously mentioned, this is caused by a sedentary lifestyle, of prolonged periods of sitting and slouching.
Particularly focusing on our lower back, shoulders and chest muscles, we can help re-align our posture. This often results in less aches and pains, making you more conformable when sitting up straight, and therefore more likely to do so.
7. Improved overall performance
So looking back at all other 6 benefits of stretching, they all contribute to an overall improved performance. Increased blood circulation allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach the muscles, thus increasing our stamina. We are significantly less likely to get injured, and we have more energy though performing our exercises with proper form. Finally, at the end of our workout we will reduce our muscle pain, and maximise recovery. What’s not to love?
In conclusion stretching before and after your workout is essential. And as you can tell from the benefits above, it’s hardly something you want to miss out on. If the fear of injury isn’t a big enough incentive to stretch, hopefully the 7 benefits listed and their boost to your overall health will suffice.
Now nothing goes with a good stretch than a good workout. Stuck for ideas? Why not try a Crossfit WOD?