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The Health Benefits Of Stretching

  •   Danielle L’Ami

Stretching is an important key to improved mind and body. Find out why, how to start, the many benefits and more.

An image of group of woman stretching illustrating the health benefits of stretching.

Many people enjoy the benefits of stretching through activities like Pilates or Yoga. Some even stretch after a vigorous run. But what about when life takes over and  we can’t seem to squeeze it in? Or those who think stretching is only needed when you are truly active.

How many of you witnessed either our pet dogs or cats or other wild animals stretching their bodies? It’s instinctive and natural. Yes, simple stretching is the key to helping us stay balanced and improve our mood. But the benefits go beyond feeling good.

What Stretching Does to Your Body

Stretching not only keeps our muscles healthy, flexible,  and strong but also does wonders for our joint mobility.  According to medicinenet.com, when we stretch our muscles and the fascia, otherwise known as connective tissue around them, we “relieve tension, reduce body aches, improve [our] posture, and more.”

The Benefits of Stretching

The American Psychological Association discusses how stress levels are directly related to muscle tension. Throughout our daily lives, our muscles absorb the stress we encounter.Whether we are stressed about work, driving our kids around to their activities, or are worried about paying all of our bills, we retain stress in our muscles which impacts our overall health and well-being.

Our emotional health and physical health are very closely related. By stretching, we can also help our body to release some of the emotions we tend to hold onto such as simple annoyance or residual feelings from past traumatic events.

Consider when you are stressed at work. you might clench your shoulders. This creates tension which can even lead to a stiff and painful back. When you add stretching to your day, you can alleviate this tension by simply reminding your shoulders that they don’t have to  be clenched.

Healthline.com offers nine benefits to stretching that include:

  • Increasing your flexibility 
  • Increasing your range of motion
  • Improving your performance in other physical activities
  • Increasing blood flow to muscles
  • Improving your posture
  • Helping to heal and prevent back pain
  • Helping relieve stress
  • Helping to calm your mind
  • Helping to reduce tension headaches

Let’s expand on what each of them means for our health.

Flexibility and Range of Motion

Stretching helps with our range of motion.We all know the more we do something, the more we improve. The same can be said about stretching, and each time you stretch, you are increasing your flexibility and range of motion. Being flexible helps slow down mobility issues that often come with aging such as tying your shoelaces. 

Improves Physical Activity Performance

Stretching helps prepare your muscles for what’s to come, both inside the gym and outside of the gym. Start by warming up your muscles before stretching by taking a quick walk or doing a few jumping jacks. Having your muscles awakened will make sure you are performing at optimal efficiency.

Increases Blood Flow

We sit constantly during the day: at the desk, in a car, or while binge-watching our favorite shows. Sitting can slow our circulation, but stretching returns blood flow to our muscles.

Improves Posture and Helps with Back Pain

When we spend a lot of time hunched over at our desks or in our cars, we train our muscles to maintain this poor posture. Back stretches can not only offset this imbalance but can also alleviate tight muscles to reduce and prevent back pain.

Helps Reduce Stress and Calms the Mind

Recall how emotional stress is held physically within our bodies? Stretching helps to release this stress and may even eliminate it. Stretches also force us to focus our minds on the task at hand.  We zero in on breathing and on the feeling of the stretch, becoming mindful in the moment and calming our mind.

If you are looking at other ways to calm the mind, gardening is a great way to reduce stress, as we share in our post on The Health Benefits of Gardening. Notice that gardening also requires a lot of bending and stretching for the body.

Helps to Reduce Tension Headaches

Some headaches can be debilitating and can be the difference between having a good day and a horrible day. Stretching can help lighten our tension, and thus, limit the number of tension headaches we receive.

One  study found nurses who did some neck stretching while experiencing a headache, helped reduce the severity of the headache. Adequate sleep, avoiding highly processed foods and  staying hydrated with electrolytes and magnesium can help tension headaches.

FAQ About Stretching

We recognize that some may have questions about stretches, but don’t worry, we’ll address the most common concerns.

1.   Is It Okay to Stretch Every Day?

Yes, it is. In fact, stretching every day is encouraged.

2.   Does Stretching Help You Lose Weight?

While stretching doesn’t burn many calories, doing so sets the stage for increased mobility to tackle more challenging workouts.. If mountain climbers are challenging, stretching can help your body do them more efficiently and that can lead to weight loss.

3.   What Are the Benefits of Stretching Before Bed?

The most significant benefit is improved sleep. Stretching before bed helps our body to wind down and calm the mind before we enter dreamland. Stretching helps to relax your muscles so that they can rest more comfortably.  

4.   How Long Should I Stretch Every Day?

When first beginning to incorporate stretching into your day, you may only stretch for 10 seconds for each muscle group. But as you progress, you can increase the time. Some will hold a pose for three minutes. The choice is up to you and what you feel comfortable with.

5.   How Can I Avoid Hurting Myself When Stretching?

Medicinenet.com suggests the following. First, don’t stretch beyond comfort. Pushing to your edge is one thing, but a stabbing pain is your body’s way of telling you to back off. If you have a muscle injury, hold off until it’s better.

Next, don’t bounce while stretching; this can lead to injury. Avoid overdoing it. Stretch one area and move on to the next. Lastly, give your body some time to digest food and drinks before you stretch. Stretching on a full stomach can cause discomfort or nausea.

Key Takeaways

Stretching is beneficial to our overall health. Not only can we become better athletes, but stretching can also relieve everyday tension and stress from our bodies: healing both physically and emotionally to our bodies.

Stretching is encouraged every day. The beauty of stretching is it doesn’t take much time. Yogis are fond of saying, “I bend so I don’t break.” The same principle can relate to stretching. 

Don’t wait until you are at a breaking point; why not try some stretching today?

Author
Danielle L’Ami

Danielle L’Ami is a logophile who writes her passion and loves to connect with others through her thoughts and personal experiences. When she is not writing, you can find her watching hockey with her husband, torturing her children with new recipes, or practicing yoga to keep herself balanced.

My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.