Whether it’s when you wake up, in the middle of your workday, or after your workout a good stretch can be amazing. But other than the obvious gratification, stretching can have many positive effects on your body and mind. It may seem inconvenient and a bit mundane, but with the proper routine and technique the benefits are greater than you may think.
Possibly the most obvious effect stretching will have on your body would be a greater range of motion. After a short time you will start to notice that you have become much more limber. Many personal trainers will tell you this added flexibility will yield big gains in the gym. This will also be important as you get older. You lose range of motion and it’s a lot harder to get it back as you age. Stretching can help you keep that flexibility.
Also stretching along with regular workouts will build healthier, longer, leaner, muscle that is desired by many. Many runners who don’t stretch after a run may notice they are tight a lot of time. That is because running causes little tiny tears in the muscle and as that heals it will heal tight if you don’t properly stretch after a long run. Another excellent product of stretching is increased circulation. This increased blood flow promotes healthier cells in our bodies by bringing them nutrients and getting rid of any waste products that may have been stored there.
Often times with more blood reaching your brain you will be able to think more freely and clearly. Also recent research gives reason to believe that stretching may be able to reverse the hardening of blood vessels. Now that your blood is flowing more freely this usually means more energy because you’re now getting good circulation to areas of you’re body that weren’t before.
Stretching can also act as a great pain reliever. By increasing the range of motion in your muscles it relaxes them and takes some stress off of your hips and spine. This is especially helpful as you get older because your joints tend to get stiffer much faster as you age.
You may notice that your posture begins to improve as well. This happens because the stress on your spine has been relieved and now you are more free to stand and sit up straight rather that in a tense hunched position. Also believe it or not your better posture will help your internal organs stay healthy and function properly.
So now that we know what stretching can do for us lets learn some basic technique. The first thing to know is that you should breathe deeply and slowly. Keep a steady breathing pattern and relax. Contrary to old school belief, you never want to bounce during a stretch.
You want to have nice smooth, long motions. Generally you’re going to want to hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. If you experience pain while in a stretch stop immediately. A stretching routine does not have to be very involved or time consuming. It can be as simple as 10 minutes a day everyday or even every other.
Try adding stretching to your daily routine. Yoga is a great form of stretching and online classes can be found for free. As you can see the benefits warrant finding only ten minutes a day. If used with proper technique and a well planned and followed routine stretching can be a great addition to your life and workout routine.
I personally don’t stretch before a run, but I always stretch after a long run. Here is a post with some great tools to help you stretch like sticks and foam rollers.
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