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From that first head-to-toe stretch in the morning to those tiny, yet efficient backbends after you’ve been sitting for too long, few simplicities feel as satisfying as a good stretch! Even better than those stolen stretches throughout the day, there are plenty of movements you can do that target—and really benefit—a plethora of body parts and muscles. There is stretching for lower back pain, hip flexor stretches, core stretches, stretches for flexibility, and so much more.
Keep reading to learn the benefits of daily stretching, why it’s is important, and ideas for implementing more into your routine.
What Is Stretching?
Stretching occurs when you pull, extend, or straighten a particular body part so that the muscle tightens and then relaxes upon release. Reaching for the sky or bending toward your toes—both are simple forms of a stretch.
When thinking about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, people tend to think of exercise and eating greens, but stretching is a pivotal component to your overall wellness, too. A daily routine is just as crucial to your fitness and self care as aerobic fitness, building muscle, and eating healthy.
What Does Stretching Do?
Stretching is an essential health component—that’s understood! But the question remains: why? What does it actually do?
In short, a lot! According to Healthline, stretching increases flexibility, improves range of motion in your joints, optimizes circulation, reduces stress, and enhances performance in physical activities.
Yes, you read that correctly: A simple thing as a daily routine can have all of these incredible health benefits!
Why Is Stretching Important?
As we now know, stretching increases flexibility—but why is that important?
Flexibility is an important aspect of muscle and joint health. Stretching for flexibility, in turn, keeps muscles healthy and strong.
Neglecting to stretch results in tightened and shortened muscles. This is problematic for a few reasons. To start, when it comes time for physical activity or simply going about your daily activities, the muscle is weak and no longer has its full range of motion, which enhances the risk of muscular tears and joint pain.
A daily routine can limit these risks. “A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured from slightly extensive movement,” says fitness coach and Skillshare instructor Felix Harder. “By increasing the range of motion in a particular joint through stretching, you can decrease the resistance on your muscles during various activities.”
Benefits of Stretching
We’ve already discussed some of the benefits of stretching, but let’s dive a little deeper and learn about how it benefits flexibility, strength, and pain relief, reduction, and prevention.
Typically thought of as a skill reserved for yogis and gymnasts, flexibility often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. But it’s a powerful wellness tool most people can access on their own.
Boosting flexibility can improve posture, help avoid muscular and joint injuries, increase range of motion, and prevent arthritis.
It might seem counterintuitive, but stretching can actually improve strength. One of the benefits of practicing daily is improved circulation, which increases blood flow to muscles. This blood flow can reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery time in between workouts—so you can get back to building those muscles even sooner! Plus, notes Harder, “A flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy efficient movements.”
Stretching also increases range of motion in joints. Having the full range of motion increases the ability to perform strength-building moves with a smaller risk of injury.
Pain Relief / Reduction / Prevention
Stretching helps prevent pain and injury by improving range of motion and muscular length. Nevertheless, injuries can still happen, but it also can help with pain relief and reduction.
Aside from stretching being a fairly simple practice, another one of its advantages is how it can be so easily targeted for a specific body part. For instance, it can relieve lower back pain. Tight and shortened low back muscles increase pain and chance for injury. A daily routine can alleviate that tightness and discomfort.
Stretching can also provide pain relief for hip flexors, sore abdominals, and any other muscular stiffness.
When Should You Stretch?
Just like exercise and healthy eating, stretching should be part of your daily routine. The more you practice it, the more overall benefits you’ll reap!
Stretching every day is crucial to improving flexibility and maintaining joint motion and muscle elasticity. In fact, you’ll only truly see the benefits of stretching if you practice it on a regular, ongoing basis! Incorporating a daily stretching routine into your schedule is a key part of improving your overall health and wellness.
In the Morning
Implementing morning stretches to your daily routine can do a few things. For starters, it can help wake you up by stimulating blood flow to all parts of your body. A nice morning stretch can also release any tension you may have developed overnight.
This may seem like an odd time to add some movement throughout your day, but stretching before bed can actually improve your quality of sleep and just how fast you’re able to fall into a restful state.
Why? Stretching, as we know, can relieve muscular tension. A stretch before bed can target any areas of the body where physical, mental, or emotional stress has caused tension to build throughout the day—and release it before you shut your eyes.
Stretching before bed can also help calm your body and create the right mindset for settling down. After all, stretching requires focus and paying attention to your body and how you’re feeling. This type of close attention inevitably slows you down, preparing you for a good night’s rest.
Types of Stretching
Just as there are a myriad of health benefits from stretching, there are also plenty of ways in which to stretch! There are stretches for low back pain, for core muscles, for hip flexors, for biceps, quads, and so much more! Here are just a few specific areas where stretching can really help.
Lower Back Stretches
Sitting in a chair all day long? Hunched over a computer? Spending eight hours on your feet? Tension is bound to build in your lower back muscles. Some stretches that can alleviate tightness and shortened muscles include: child’s pose, seated spinal twists, cat-cow poses, and sphinx pose.
It’s imperative to take low back pain seriously and handle any stretching cautiously. Pay attention to your body’s limits and abilities to not aggravate any existing pain.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Hip flexors are the muscles that support the ball-and-socket joint of the hips. Keeping them strong and flexible can stave off injuries and, down the line, arthritis.
Some stretches to improve hip flexor mobility include: seated butterfly stretch, bridges, and pigeon pose. Sitting for extended periods of time, like working at a desk all day, can cause tight hip flexors. Trying some of these stretches carefully and cautiously can help with hip and low back pain.
Following up core strength exercises with some core stretches is as essential as stretching any other muscle. When people think of core muscles, they tend to think only of the abdominal muscle area, but core muscles actually include the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, hip flexors, pelvic floor, diaphragm, and low back. Each of these muscles works together to maintain your balance, stabilize the spine, and prevent back pain.
Some stretches to improve core muscles include: cobra pose, seated side-saddle stretch, and cat-cow pose.
While people think about bending to touch their toes and bobbing up and down to increase their reach and extend their stretch, passive stretching is the practice of holding a set pose for a period of time.
Passive stretching is performed with a partner or an accessory, such as a resistance band or even a wall. This helps you hold certain poses longer and only push yourself incrementally more each time—making it particularly helpful in limiting risk of injury while stretching.
Whether you’re an avid exerciser or not, stretching is a crucial part to maintaining a healthy lifestyle! Stretching can improve joint range of motion, increase flexibility, enhance circulation, and even relieve stress. Implementing a daily stretching routine into your life is an easy and simple way to improve your health.
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