to health and weight-loss: stress reduction, sleep, deep breathing, clean water, complete nutrition, sunshine, walking, stretching, meditation, love, community, laughter, dreams, perseverance, purpose, humility, action.” ― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
According to the dictionary, a body stretch means to strengthen or extend one’s body or parts of the body to its full length in order to reach something or get our blood moving from a stagnant position.
Human beings are not the only species on earth that stretch. Trees stretch, animals stretch, flowers stretch, vines stretch, etc. Stretching promotes circulation of fluids in the body.
Stretching improves flexibility of the body’s range of motion in our joints, keeps muscles strong and healthy. Stretching improves body posture and helps in reducing body soreness.
If you are someone who finds purposeful stretching a waste of time, keep this in mind:
-Lack of stretching creates fatigue
-Lack of stretching leads to muscle loss
-Exercising without a good stretch before and after, will make exercising ineffective
-Lack of stretching can lead to muscle injury while exercising
Why is it so important to stretch?
Whether you are someone that works in an office all day or works from home and sits at the computer all day, you will be familiar with hamstring tightness when you get up from sitting too long. You will feel neck strain from holding one position or repeatedly moving your neck at one level, left to right, or your knees feels like they want to give out as you stand up or try to walk from sitting too long.
How does the body benefit from a good stretch sesh?
Stretching the body only once today will not make your muscles stronger. Stretching needs to happen every day. You might start a good stretch with lower body and work your way up the body throughout the day. A ten- minute stretch session, concentrating on different muscle groups every day, will keep your body become flexible and ready when called on. Maintenance is the key.
Regular stretching, getting up from a sitting position every hour to hour and a half, keeps muscles lubricated, long, lean, and flexible. Healthy, stretched muscles help with balance issues as well.
According to health.harvard.edu, “An old way of thinking was that when it is cold outside, stretching to warm up was good for the muscles but now research has shown that when muscles are cold, the fibers are not prepared and can be more easily damaged. Low impact exercising will help get blood flow to the muscles which makes tissues more pliable. A quick morning walk around the house or outside, before exercising will do the trick for a good stretch after the walk.”
Is there a proper way to stretch or is the first morning stretch right out of bed enough?
The simple answer is YES, there is a proper way to stretch all the muscles for best results and NO, other than the elongated stretch your body automatically does when getting out of bed, stretching should take place after blood flow has been brought to the muscles and tissues. Here are some CAN DO stretches to practice every day, according to bodybuilding.com:
1- Use static stretches at the end of a workout, not before.
2- Stretch tight muscles when training a favorite body part. Example: if your chest is strong but your calves are tight, stretch you calves between sets of bench presses.
3- Use traction or resistance bands when stretching to increase range of motion and reduce compression of joints. Don't have a band, use a short towel and hold the stretched pose for 15 seconds, then repeat.
4- Muscles shorten the older we get so stretch often if your posture is in question.
According to www.health.harvard.edu, sets of compression exercises such as squats or overhead presses. Hanging from a chin-up bar can help a great deal with spinal decompression.
5- Do stretch the surrounding muscles to liberate greater range of motion. Example: the iliotibial band is a dense fibrous band of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh and is very resistant to stretching. Getting close to this connective tissue through the quadriceps and hamstrings is key. Using a foam roller to roll on the side muscle helps as shown in the photo below.
There are a few DON’T DO stretches that are good to know:
According to bodybuilding.com:
-Don’t hold an intense stretch too long. 15 seconds is all you need. Muscle hypoxia, lack of oxygen to the muscles develops under high force/tension and promotes inflexibility.
-Don’t skip strength training exercises that promote passive stretching.
-Don’t stretch first thing in the morning. Wait at least one hour after waking up. During the night your spine swells with fluid and the risk of injury is high if you stretch first thing.
-Don’t hold your breath during a stretch. This will tense your muscles. Instead, relax by exhaling longer than inhaling.
Is there a difference between Yoga and Stretching?
There are a few similarities between Yoga and stretching but not many. According to www.betterme.world, similarities include being good for your muscles and allow them to relax after strength training sessions. Both help in relieving tightness and both target all the main muscle groups. Some yoga and stretching exercises look similar to each other but become intense depending on how you use and hold each pose and muscle stretch, and both require proper breathing techniques. Yoga tends to have benefits in mental calmness and meditation whereas stretching by itself concentrates more on the individual muscle you are trying to build strength in.
In the end, Yoga and stretching accomplish the same thing in that they help your body become flexible and slow the aging process of your muscles. You can choose both techniques to prevent boredom and to help strengthen your muscles in each technique’s different requirements.
Photography credits: Ascend Experience