Stretching is what helps keep our muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and flexibility is important for us to be able to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles could shorten and will become tight. Having tight muscles, especially when you do physical activity and exercise when the muscles are weak and not flexible will find it hard to extend all the way, thus meaning you may not be able to get the full potential out of the exercise you are trying to perform.
As well as stretching when you are exercising, I will always recommend to my clients that stretching on your off days even if you don't do anything physical can be really beneficial too. In our everyday life we are constantly bending, sitting, driving, standing, reaching, moving, lifting and even not moving our bodies in ways that can cause all sorts of tension and stiffness!
Here are my five reasons why you should take the time to stretch more:
1. Stretching will improve your posture
Having tight muscles can cause poor posture, the most common muscles are the chest, your entire back and hips. Most of us spend a lot of time sitting as we have sedentary jobs and that is something we can not avoid doing , however you can take action on feeling stiff by stretching more, getting up from your seat more, and strength training too.
According to Preferred Physical Therapy (n.d.) the position that is typical in people who find themselves sitting everyday will be seen with rounded shoulders and forward head, this is a position of poor posture. We can improve on this by stretching the pectoralis, upper trapezius, and hamstring muscles, to name a few more.
2. Stretching can improve range of motion and prevents loss of range of motion.
Even with limited movement due to previous injuries, ageing joints or aching joints, stretching functionally and more consistently can improve your overall general movement.
3. Stretching can improve back pain
When you start to focus on improving your posture, the pain that you most probably feel in your lower and upper back will slowly start to ease. Having tight hamstrings or hip flexors, can even cause the lower back to compensate and can develop pain. Stretching the leg muscles more and doing some basic back stretches and back mobility as well as stretching the chest will help with easing your UNWANTED back pain!
4. Stretching can help prevent injuries
If you are flexible and your joints are not stiff they will not break! Meaning if you stretch more and can start to increase the range in which a muscle can move when you exercise or even just in general everyday life (like picking toys up off the floor, or lifting a table) , the likelihood of injuring yourself by pulling or straining a muscle will decrease. The more mobility your body has, the more flexibility you have and the stronger your body is the easier you will bounce back from injury too.
5. Stretching will help with recovery after exercise
Lets be honest here the majority of us want to skip this part after we workout because we just want to finish our workout and carry on with our days. I encourage you to start taking even just 5 minutes to stretch after a workout to start a. getting into the habit of doing it more and b. helping you with stiff sore muscles that you may get after training. If you are running short for time, then just focus on stretching the muscles you used the most in the workout and go back to stretching the rest of your body later on in the day. According to Preferred Physical Therapy (n.d.) many times, when we are injured, the muscles around the injury tighten up as a protective response. By stretching these tight muscles out, pain and soreness can be alleviated.
If you need help with what to do for stretching at home or even in the gym, download your free stretch guide here:
Griebel M. (n.d.). 5 benefits of stretching. (n.d.).Preferred Physical Therapy. https://www.preferredptkc.com/5-benefits-of-stretching/