It’s not a “stretch” to say that sneaking in just a few minutes of stretching can change your life.
Benefits of Stretching
Some of the proven benefits of stretching include:
- Improved circulation by increasing blood flow to your muscles
- Enhanced energy resulting from increased circulation
- Improved flexibility and range of motion
- Better posture
- Protection for your mobility and independence
- Injury prevention (ease back pain!)
- Better sleep
- Enhanced coordination and balance
- Less stress and improved mood
- Reduction of post-exercise soreness and recovery time
Stretching helps you to maintain range of motion in your joints. Without it, your muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you rely on your muscles for activity, they’re weak and can’t fully extend. That puts you at risk for developing joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
Proper Stretching Technique
Avoid unnecessary injury by using proper stretching techniques. Tips include the following:
- Warm up: Stretching muscles when they’re cold increases your risk of pulling a muscle. Warm up by walking, or doing another exercise at low intensity for five minutes.
- Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds: By doing this, you’ll only need to do each stretch once.
- Don’t bounce: Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle, which leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. That tightens the muscle further, making you even less flexible and more susceptible to pain.
- Don’t stretch to the point it becomes painful: You should feel tension during a stretch, but it should not be painful.
- Relax and breathe: Don’t hold your breath.
- Stretch both sides equally: Make sure your joint range of motion is equal on each side of your body.
- Stretch before and after activity: The best regimen is a pre-workout warm-up followed by light stretching. Then, do more thorough stretching after your workout.
Stretching Eases Back Pain
Back pain can sometimes come from tight hamstrings due to increased stress on the muscles that surround your spine and lower back. Tightness in the piriformis muscle — which runs from the back of your thigh bone to the base of your spine — is linked to sciatica, characterized by pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the leg.
To stretch it out, lie on your back with both knees bent. Cross your calf of the leg that’s in pain across your other thigh. Grab the back of your leg and gently pull toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds. To ease chronic sciatica pain, complete six to eight reps, three to five days a week.
Stretch to Manage Stress
Stress reduces blood flow, resulting in muscle tension and knots. Stretching does the opposite, increasing blood flow to your muscles, which eases tension and helps you relax. Two great bonuses: Once your blood gets pumping, it reaches your brain, where it can boost your mood. And reducing stress helps you to fall asleep.
Speaking of sleep, stretching before bedtime can help relieve tightness or cramping that may cause you to feel stiff in the morning. And of course, doing a few stretches after you wake up will help alleviate the stiffness you may feel after sleeping in the same position for any length of time.
Should You Stretch Before Exercise?
Not necessarily. Stretching has not been proven to help prevent injury, reduce post-exercise muscle soreness, or improve your performance.
Often people confuse stretching with warming up. You should warm up by walking or doing a low-intensity version of your workout, moving for about 5 minutes. This increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles.
Should You Stretch After Exercise?
Absolutely. A great time to stretch is after aerobic exercise or weight training workout. You’ll find you’re more flexible after exercise, because you’ve increased the circulation to muscles and joints.
First walk to cool down. Then, end your workout with some stretching.
Let’s Get Started
Here’s a great collection of stretching exercises to try: https://www.self.com/gallery/essential-stretches-slideshow
Join us for the next 4-Day Daily Stretching Challenge in the Hypo & Hashi’s Help private Facebook group starting Sunday, August 12, 2018. Not a member yet? Request access here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/hypoandhashishelp/