The first thing most people do when they wake up in the morning is raise their arms over their head and get in a nice, relieving stretch. It feels good, it gets your blood flowing, it makes it easier to get up and get going. Yet was it a conscience decision, to stretch it out? Most likely not! Generally, most people subconsciously stretch out after being fixed in one position for a long period of time.
When it comes to scientifically proving the benefits of stretching, in terms of injury prevention, results are mixed. Some say there the benefits are numerous, yet others report no benefit at all. Most practitioners of exercise science can agree that stretching increases circulation, flexibility, range of motion, and alleviates back pain and stress, all of which can help prevent injury.
Stretching lengthens the muscle tissues, helping to loosen up knots in the micro-fibers. After a workout, stretching helps reduce muscle soreness from lactic acid buildups that occur during exercise. Rigorous exercise breaks down the muscle fibers and stretching to facilitate blood flow helps the recovery process, by allowing an increased supply of nutrients in blood to the aching muscles. The more conditioned your muscles and tendons are, the better they can handle rigorous sports and exercise.
As your muscles lengthen, flexibility increases, which is one of the four main measures of overall fitness, together with muscle strength, aerobic capacity and body composition. More flexibility will improve your performance during physical activity by making your movements more agile and helping with balance. Stretching increases your ability to stride longer, reach farther and move more fluidly.
Flexibility also increases range of motion, stability and joint movement. Shoulders, ankles, knees and elbows can all suffer from a myriad of minor injuries during exercise. Everything from bone spurs to tendon strains can keep you in pain daily. Stretching will decrease the risks of developing such ailments, allowing you to move both during exercise and through your daily activities, with reduced pain. You’ll also gain strength in your joints when you stretch, giving you more stability and coordination.
Stretching is an excellent way to strengthen the lower back muscles, alleviating back soreness and pain. Many muscles contribute to your posture. Most of the body’s muscle groups are required for simply standing up and walking. Quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, back muscles, even arms and shoulders are need for everyday movements. Stretching these muscles greatly reduces lower back pain.
Science shows that all forms of exercising helps reduce stress and increases brain functioning – and stretching is exercise. Even if you don’t have time to go to the gym to workout, stretching can be done pretty much anywhere and requires very little equipment or assistance from others. A daily full-body stretch will reduce muscle tension and increase energy levels, therefore reducing the risk of headaches and mental fatigue, both major side-effects of high levels of stress.
As you age, your muscles tighten and range of motion in the joints will be minimized, often hindering normal motions. Stretching should be a part of your daily routine, whether you exercise or not. Despite the arguments for or against the concept that stretching reduces injury risk, common sense shows you it does. Increased flexibility and balance, will allow you to live a more comfortably with reduced pain and stress.