Flexibility training is an essential, yet often overlooked health-related component of fitness. Numerous studies support the short- and long-term benefits of various types of stretching, including static stretching, dynamic stretching, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), just to name a few. Here are 10 reasons why you should be stretching on a regular basis.
Chronic stress can produce a number of undesirable responses in the body, including increased feelings of anxiety, fatigue and tension. Regularly stretching has been shown to reduce mental tension and, when combined with mindful breathing techniques, may also help to decrease anxiety and depression.
Reduced pain and stiffness
Excessive muscular tension can increase discomfort throughout the body. However, studies have shown that regularly performing static stretching can help to decrease stiffness, reduce pain levels (especially in individuals with chronic neck or low-back pain), and may even reduce the frequency and severity of muscle cramps.
Regularly performing stretching exercises, such as PNF stretching, static stretching, and stretches from mind-body disciplines such as yoga, can help to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate, counteracting the body’s physiological responses to stress and muscular tension.
Enhanced range of motion
Various types of stretching as well as other supportive self-care strategies, such as self-myofascial releasing using a foam roller, can help to enhance unrestricted movement of the major joints of the body, including key areas that are designed to be mobile, such as the hips and shoulders.
As a result of poor posture, repetitive movement patterns, improper body mechanics, and spending long periods of time seated, muscles in the body can become chronically tense, tight and contracted, causing them to become less strong and supple. Regular stretching utilizing a variety of flexibility training techniques helps to improve overall function by ensuring that the body can more effectively respond to the stresses imposed by various types of movement and activity.
May reduce risk of injury
Although the evidence is far from definitive, there are some promising findings regarding the role that stretching may play in helping to reduce the risk for injury. Dynamic stretches are often used as part of a warm-up to help increase core body temperature and functionally prepare the body for the movements that are to come. As a result, stretching is often considered an important part of injury prevention, as cold muscles and tendons in the body have a greater likelihood of rupture, strain or sprain.
When included as part of a well-rounded fitness routine, regular flexibility training, which includes dynamic stretching, can help enhance agility, power, speed and muscular strength.
Improved blood flow and circulation
Regular flexibility training can help to improve blood flow and circulation, thereby allowing for the enhanced transportation of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body.
Minimized wear and tear on joints
When muscles become chronically tight and tense, opposing muscles become weakened, producing unnecessary wear and tear on various joint and structures within the body. Regular stretching helps to ensure the muscles on each side of a joint maintain an equal degree of pull so that the joint is able to move freely and efficiently in all directions, allowing for optimal movement and less stress on the body.
Improved quality of life
Although there are physiological changes that occur as we grow older, regularly stretching and performing range of motion exercises can improve flexibility at any age, helping to increase longevity and enhance overall quality of life.