Why Stretching Is As Important As Regular Exercise

How often do you stretch?

Many of you will be familiar with how important stretching is after an exercise routine, be it running, dancing or cycling. But have you ever considered the merits of stretching as an isolated routine?

Stretching is vitally important, particularly as we grow older. It has a number of benefits that will enhance your general wellbeing and help you keep doing the active things you enjoy for longer.

So how does stretching help? Below are four big benefits:

 

  1. Flexibility

The less we use our muscles, the tighter they become inhibiting our range of movement. Poor flexibility can make our movement slower and more stilted, meaning some bodily positions that were once quite comfortable, no longer are, which can be quite frustrating! Most amateur athletes will stop high impact exercise such as running or squash around their forties or fifties, meaning many of the muscles that received so much use in their twenties and thirties, are no longer used in the same capacity. However, regular stretching can help prevent these muscles from seizing up, keeping them supple and allowing an enhanced range of movement.

 

  1. Prevents Injury

A regular stretching regime can play a vital role in self care by preventing injury. This is because when muscles and other soft tissues are tight and underused, sudden or awkward movement can cause the muscle to pull or tear, which can be painful and take weeks and often months to repair. Stretching loosens the muscles, meaning the chances of injury are much less. Stretching can also benefit the muscle’s healing process, increasing blood and nutrient supply which speeds it up. Stretching your muscles can relieve soreness too, increasing your ability to use them for more rigorous movement and protracted periods, such as walking or swimming.

 

  1. Posture

Stretching can also help to improve posture, balance and coordination. As our range of movement increases, we start to feel less awkward in the way we move. Over time it becomes easier to stand up straighter as the muscles we need to align the spine and pull the body upright strengthen and lengthen. Regular stretching of the lower back, chest and shoulder areas are particularly beneficial to improving posture.

 

  1. Mental Health

Stretching is an incredibly calming experience that helps to relieve tension in your mind, as well as your body. Focusing on a range of movement, as well as your breathing, can help relieve stress and reinstate a sense of calmness and wellbeing. Working a stretching routine into the same part of your day, every day, can help you focus and increase your awareness of the positive changes you observe in your range of movement. Stretching first thing in the morning can awaken your body and help get your day off to a great start. Setting your alarm an extra half hour earlier will be hard to start off with, but the benefits you feel for the rest of the day will make it worth it.

Don’t believe us? Try it! We’d love to hear how you get on! Let us know what differences you notice by keeping in touch with us on social media. Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.

NHS Choices also has a number of videos available that can help you learn more about the correct way to stretch each muscle group, and for how long.

Good luck!