Why stretching is so good for all of us

You routinely do your cardiovascular workouts along with lifting some weights but wait, you may be leaving out one very important component of physical fitness - stretching.

Don’t let stretching take a backseat to your exercise routine.  Stretching is critical to maintaining our flexibility and range of motion.  As we age, our muscles begin to tighten and suddenly simple movements of reaching for something on a high shelf or bending over to pick up a dropped object become more difficult and uncomfortable.  When our muscles lose flexibility, our movements become slower and we are more susceptible to strains and injuries.  

Loss of flexibility and range of motion puts a damper on our lifestyle hindering day-to-day activities.  None of us set out to stiffen up like the tinman from the movie The Wizard of Oz, but we will if we don’t do basic stretching movements every day and unfortunately an oil can won’t help us.

Here are reasons why all of us must do simple movements of some form of stretching and how it benefits us in the long run:

·         Improves physical performance reducing risk of injury and muscle soreness 

Ever wonder why athletes will often stretch before a game?  Whether you participate in sports or not, basic stretching anytime of the day is always good helping to keep your muscles loose without tightening up.  Many people will experience undue muscle soreness particularly after doing major physical work such as heavy lifting or movements they don’t normally do.  Regular stretching can prevent soreness in muscles since the stretched muscles are more used to being used.

·         Improves posture

Chronically tight and tense muscles can contribute to poor posture.  Stretching can help fix that by lengthening tight muscles and help keep the spine in better alignment while improving overall posture. 

·         Reduces risk of low back pain

An estimated 75 to 85 percent of all Americans will experience some form of low back pain during their lifetime.  Muscles in our lower back are often neglected and those muscles will stiffen over time if not regularly stretched. By doing regular flexibility and stretching movements for the back, this can at least keep the muscles from becoming taunt and allow more movement and less pain in this area of the body.

·         Increases blood and nutrients to the tissues

Studies have shown stretching does increase blood flow to the muscles and with this increase it brings a greater supply of nutrients.  Those vital nutrients helps to reduce muscle soreness and speeds recovery from muscle and joint injuries.  When your muscles feel less sore, the less painful it will be to work the muscles again.

·         Improves muscle coordination

You can always tell people who regularly stretch – they with more ease and grace.  They have a greater range of motion helping lead to better balance and muscle coordination. 

·         Reduces stress and tension

Stress can build up causing your muscles to contract becoming more tense leading to aches and pain throughout the body.  Stretching just 10-15 minutes a day calms the mind while recharging the body to better able to handle stressful situations. 

Practicing different forms of stretching

Every single day do some form of stretching.  Designate a time of day you set aside to stretch out your body – it could be first thing in the morning, after taking a hot bath or before bedtime.  Whether it’s Pilates, yoga, tai chi, barre exercises or just basic stretching, it all adds up to a more flexible and healthier you.