Most people tend to think of stretching as something you only do before or after workouts or during yoga classes. However, it is not just a sports activity – it can bring many health benefits when slotted into your daily routine.
Why is stretching important? Whether you wake up with tight muscles or want to improve your workouts this article will help you find out how daily stretches can help.
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What Exactly Is Stretching?
Stretching is the act of releasing tension from the muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons in your body. We all tend to stretch naturally with little thought; reaching up our arms in the morning after a good night's sleep and kids rocking their legs or swinging their arms from side to side while sitting or standing for a long time are good examples.
Stretching acts as a bridge between sedentary and active periods in your day, making it a natural fit for those looking to take care of your health.
Different Types Of Stretching Explained
Dynamic stretching is based on the purposeful and repetitive movement of your body. The aim of stretching this way is to activate the muscles in the body and prep them for intense physical activity. Athletes and workout enthusiasts often do this style of stretching before working out or doing sports. Arm circles are one example of a dynamic stretch.
Static stretching is the act of holding a stretch for an extended period, typically a minute or less. This style of stretching is usually done post-workout rather than pre-workout to help you cool down. One example of a static stretch would be the forward fold.
Ballistic stretching is similar to dynamic stretching, but you use a bouncing movement in and out of the stretch to deepen it. The momentum of your body bouncing helps you further the stretch. An example of ballistic stretching would be bouncing your upper body up and down while sitting and trying to touch your toes. Pilates exercise routines can involve this type of stretching.
Passive stretching is a relaxing style that typically involves you being assisted into and then staying in a stretch for a minute or more.
This type helps your muscles release more tension and brings more relaxation. One example of a passive stretch is when someone pushes your leg towards your face while lying on your back.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, or PNF stretching, is a stretch type designed to find the max range of motion of parts of your body by holding and releasing the muscles.
To perform a PNF stretch, you hold the stretch, push the muscle out of the stretch, and then go back into a passive stretch.
These can be done individually or with help, such as with an assisted lying hamstring pull.
Why Is Stretching Important? (Pre & Post Workout)
Why is stretching so important before and after a workout? Performing specific stretches before and after physical activity can bring certain benefits, including:
Before a Workout
- 1Reduces Muscle Tension
Muscle tension has negative consequences for your workouts, from not letting you perform the full range of motion to distracting you from working out to the best of your ability. Stretching beforehand minimizes issues while working out and preps your muscles to be at their best.
- 2Allows Freer And Easier Movement
Sore or stiff muscles can easily inhibit your physical activities and make it challenging to make full ranges of movement. While working out, it is vital to ensure that you remain in the proper posture and make full ranges of motion to see the best results; stretching lets you move easily and get better results.
- 3Prevents Injuries Such As Muscle Strains
While sports injuries are common, stretching helps prevent your body from experiencing preventable injuries. Muscle strains and tears do happen but can be minimized with proper stretch time before and after working out or doing high-intensity sports like football or soccer.
- 4Prepare Your Body For The Exercise
As we mentioned above, stretches are often the bridge between sedentary and active periods of your day – this is especially true for pre and post-workout stretches. Spending proper time doing dynamic stretches before your activity ensures that your body is ready to perform at its best.
- 5Promotes Circulation
Your blood works hard to provide your body with oxygen, nutrients, and everything it needs to function correctly; this is especially true during intense sports and workouts. Stretching and preparing your body for exercise ensures that blood flows properly and gives your muscles the nutrients they need to perform well.
- 6Develop Body Awareness
For some people, knowing exactly what your body can and cannot do is a satisfying feeling. For others, knowing your body's limits makes it easier to understand how to push yourself to achieve more. Whether it is finally touching your toes or beating your best time, stretching lets you get to know your body on a deeper level and be more comfortable in your skin.
After a Workout
- 1Greater Flexibility & Range Of Motion
Stretching after workouts and in general throughout your day can help you work towards greater flexibility and motion. This can come in handy whether you want to touch your toes or playing with the kids without worrying about pulling a back muscle.
- 2Avoid Tired, Stiff, & Sore Muscles
As your body rests after a workout, your muscles can become stiff and sore, especially after trying a new exercise. Static stretching your body and focusing on the worked areas immediately after your workout can help minimize tired, stiff, and sore muscles.
- 3Better Posture & Less Back Pain
Desk workers and elderly folks can suffer from worsened posture and back pain over time. One way to minimize this pain and improve your posture is to perform back, neck, and shoulder stretches as part of your everyday routine, with one or two big ones each day or multiple smaller sessions throughout it.
- 4Less Muscle Tension & Lower Stress
By going to yoga or stretching classes at home or the gym, you can help release excess muscle tension and reduce your stress. While stretches may not remove all your worries, they can make bearing your responsibilities a little easier to handle while giving you 'me' time.
Benefits Of Stretching On A Regular Basis
Improves Your Performance In Everyday Activities
No matter who you are and your job, stretching regularly can quickly help you move through your regular activities. From lifting heavy boxes into the car to running errands all day, stretching can make you more comfortable and move easier.
Increases Blood Flow To Your Muscles
Your blood carries oxygen and other nutrients across every inch of your body to help it keep going. Stretching regularly ensures that your blood can circulate easily and help you look and feel your best on both the inside and outside.
Improves Posture & Prevents Back Pain
For desk workers especially, making time to stretch throughout your day can help minimize wrist strain, carpal tunnel, and lower back pain. Sources vary on how often you should perform wrist, neck, and back stretches each day. They are easy to forget amid a busy day, but we recommend two five-minute sessions a day at least.
Helps to Relieve Stress
With so many responsibilities, stress is quickly built up throughout your daily grind. For many, making time to stretch can be a form of self-care that lets you tangibly take care of your mental and physical well-being. Even for a few minutes, stretching enables you to release tension from your body and exist in the present for a little while.
Calm Your Mind & Helps Decrease Tension Headaches
Working through a stretch routine lets you check in with your body and exist in the present. As you stretch, you feel your body release tension and reach its stretch limit.
Working areas like your neck and shoulders can help ease and minimize tension headaches, bringing you comfort and returning your ability to focus.
Who Should Stretch?
In short, everyone should stretch. We already stretch intuitively as children; this should carry through the rest of our lives.
Whether you only have time for a quick couple of minutes in the morning, do multiple small stretches during work, or make time for a wind-down session at the end of the day, you need to stretch more.
This goes double for athletes, the elderly, office workers, and anyone who is on their feet all day.
When Shouldn't You Stretch?
Stretching your body more is excellent, but there are times when you should skip that stretch session, such as:
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How long should I stretch each day?
That depends on your body and situation. However, even a couple of minutes in the morning and the evening can make a difference to your overall mental and physical well-being.
Does stretching burn fat?
Stretching your body does burn some calories and prep your body to burn fat during exercise, meaning that it does burn fat in a way. However, there are more efficient ways of burning fat than stretching now and then.
Can stretching change your body shape?
Stretching every day can make your body leaner than it was before. This is different based on the individual, but some have found that their muscles become longer and thinner over time with regular stretch sessions.
Is it better to stretch at night or morning?
That depends on you. For some, a morning stretch sequence can help them feel ready to take on the day, while others prefer a soft wind-down to a hectic day. We recommend finding what is best for you. Foam rolling also recommended at any time of the day.
Now that you know why stretching is so important, we encourage you to find stretches that work for you. When stretching, remember to be careful, consistent, and gentle with yourself. Breathe slowly into the stretch and know that you will improve over time.