I often hear the questions…
Should I stretch?
Why is it important?
Do I need to stretch everyday?
Is it better to stretch before or after a workout?
Even if I don’t workout, should I stretch my body?
The simple answer to most of the questions above is YES, you should stretch your body. It is important to stay flexible whether you are an athlete, stay at home Mom, someone who visits the gym regularly, taking the day off from the gym or even a person who never lifted a weight in their life. No matter what your age or condition, there’s a stretch for every BODY.
Stretching has a multitude of benefits for not only your BODY, but also your MIND. As you may or may not know, I strongly believe that the mind has more to do with the state of your body than any form of physical activity. Creating space for calm moments (such as deep stretches) has the incredible ability of releasing tension from your aching muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, but most importantly… alleviating emotional stress.
So now the next statement I often hear is “but I am not flexible”, “I can’t”, and so on. Let me start by saying that this mindset is awfully negative. You are affirming that you indeed are not flexible, if that’s what you believe.
No one is really born with the ability to touch their toes without bending knees. A full split is something that doesn’t happen overnight. Just like anything worth having, it takes some time and practice to get there.
So, lets take a moment to explore a handful of reasons why stretching is so important for your health!
5 HEALTH BENEFITS OF STRETCHING:
1. Helps to Relieves Stress.
Lets face it, when we’re stressed in life (who isn’t!?) we often feel it in our physical bodies. One of my favorite reasons why stretching is beneficial to your health is this factor– your muscles will release tension. Focus on stretching areas of your neck, shoulders and upper back. This is where you likely feel the most tension– which often leads to headaches.
2. Reduces the Risk of Injury.
Regular stretching will improve your flexibility, allowing you to perform everyday activities relatively easier. This will also help delay the reduced mobility that comes along with the inevitable factor of getting older.
3. May Improve Your Posture and Reduce Pain.
Did you know that good posture will improve the strength of your core, which is the main muscle groups surrounding your internal organs? Would you focus on your posture a bit more if I told you it makes you appear thinner? Think and perform: shoulders back, sitting or standing tall, chin forward, sucking the belly in towards the spine. Doing so will also keep bones and joints aligned, decreasing the stress on ligaments and encouraging proper alignment.
4. Increases Your Circulation and Energy.
When you feel tired sitting at work or if you find yourself having a mid-day slump, get out of your chair and do a few stretches to get the blood flowing and loosen up. Having more blood flow to your brain makes you more alert, which helps to energize your mind at the same time. Also, regular stretching will increase the flow of blood to your muscles and around your body, therefore may improve your circulation. Increased circulation of blood shortens your recovery time after activity which reduces muscle soreness.
5. Lifts Your Mood.
You can be happier from stretching? YES! Stretching is a very light, zero impact form of exercise which promotes the production of feel-good endorphins by your brain. Exercising causes your brain to increase certain neurochemicals such as serotonin (responsible for feeling of joy and happiness) which is helpful for anyone, especially if you struggle with anxiety or depression.
- I like to start by making sure your body is warmed up. I enjoy stretching after a workout if I have the time. If you don’t, then make sure you are actively warmed up with a serious of core-focused postures to really fire up the front and backside of the body.
- Hold a stretch for a few breaths, or at least 30 seconds to really reap the benefits.
- Breathing deeply and allowing yourself to really feel a stretch (not to where it hurts), but just to go to the point past comfortable. You do not want to be in pain, but you want to make sure you feel the stretches.
- If you have an existing injury, practice only exercises instructed by your medical doctor or physical therapist.
- Try out some videos on YouTube of simple stretches if you are just starting out, and don’t overdue it at first to avoid injury.
- Check out a local yoga class to get the ball rolling (do a beginner one if you are new at it) or join me for a stretching class which I will be hosting soon!
- Make stretching part of your daily routine. Just like brushing your teeth, it will turn into something you will do habitually every day– even if it’s just 5 minutes when you get out of bed!