Stretching is an essential aspect of an exercise regime, so you may be surprised at the number of people who don’t include warm up and cool down stretches as part of their work out.
Incorporating stretching into your workouts should be a given, and even if you don’t regularly exercise, a daily stretch is a great way to relax your muscles and increases blood flow and nutrients to your cartilage and muscles.
So, next time you consider skipping an important stretch out, remember these 10 benefits of stretching:
1. Increase the extensibility of muscles
By stretching muscles, the length of the muscle can be increased allowing for greater range of movement at the joint. A flexible joint has the ability to move through a greater range of movement and requires less energy to do so.
2. Injury prevention
It is believed by many health professionals having a greater range of movement at joints will decrease the chance of injury in situations where joints may be forced to an extreme end of range. Such actions are common in situations where sudden movements are required as in many sports and fitness activities.
3. Decreases muscle tightening
Exercise can cause muscle tightness. This tightness can be reduced by performing stretches as the final part of an exercise programme.
4. Decreases muscle soreness
The cause of muscle soreness after exercise is still a topic of debate. Studies have shown, however, that slow static style stretches performed on completion of a workout can reduce the possibilities of Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness.
5. Counteracts possible restricting and shortening effects of hypertrophy training
The constant contracting of muscles during heavy resistance training sessions can cause muscles to shorten in length. The muscles targeted during such an exercise programme should be stretched immediately after performing each exercise. Stretching muscles in this way also improves performance.
6. Increases coordination between muscle groups
Studies have shown nerve impulse velocity (the time it takes a nerve impulse to get from the brain to the working muscles) is increased with flexibility. This improved neuromuscular function and allows opposing muscle groups to work in a more co-ordinated fashion. When one muscle group contracts, the opposing muscle group are made to relax.
7. Improves muscular imbalances and postural alignment
Poor posture can be the result of muscle imbalances or simply bad postural habits. Stretching can assist in rectifying these problems.
8. Increases speed and power of movement
The improved neuromuscular function also improves the function of the muscle itself. Studies have shown athletes who do a thorough warm up and stretch prior to competing, perform much better than those athletes who do not.
9. Improves muscle and general relaxation
In general, stretching promotes muscle relaxation and therefore is effective in relaxing the body whether you regularly work out or not.
10. Improves body awareness
Stretching specific muscles brings the participant’s focus to the muscles being stretched. “I never knew I had a muscle there”, is quite a common saying of the new exerciser. By bringing specific muscle groups to the attention of the participant, they become more aware of their own body.
So, next time you’re tempted to skip the stretch, remember the benefits it has on your mind and body.