Often overlooked or ignored, stretching is incredibly important. In fact, it’s just as important as exercise. Stretching should be done after you’ve exercised and some people even dedicate a whole training session to just stretching. Everyone thinks of improved flexibility, but aside from this, what are the other benefits?
Helps with posture – If we don’t stretch our muscles become tight and through the way we work, play or exercise, muscles can pull posture out of alignment. It’s common to see hunched shoulders in those that work at a desk all day. This is because the chest muscles have become tight and need stretching out.
Prevents injuries – stretching increases the range of motion in our joints, giving us more movement when undertaking activities. This is particularly useful for when we ask our muscles to move in a different way than they are used to – for instance golfers who’s backs have to suddenly flex more than usual.
Speeds recovery – soreness from exercise can’t be avoided altogether, but stretching out the muscles helps with the supply of blood and nutrients to the muscles, enabling them to repair quicker.
Increases blood circulation – as mentioned above, blood circulation is improved with stretching. This helps with organ function, especially the heart which doesn’t have to work so hard to pump blood around the body.
Stops arteries from hardening – in fact, stretching has been proven to reverse the hardening of arteries by as much as 20% if undertaken for a prolonged period of time (such as yoga, combined with moderate aerobic exercise and good diet) and reduce cholesterol.
Improves athletic performance – relaxed, flexible muscles become less fatigued during exercising enabling you to perform that little bit better.
Releases stress – when we get stressed our muscles tighten and many people experience cricked necks or pain the shoulders and upper back. Not only does stretching help with the physical symptoms from stress but it helps to release endorphins which help you feel more relaxed and happy.
At Bryn Mawr Wellness we undertake ART (Active Release Technique) which stretches, separates and releases muscles along with connective tissue adhesions which may be restricting movement. This allows for an increase in range of motion, flexibility and strength while also restoring vascular circulation. Restoring normal muscle and connective tissue function also helps ward of injuries and improves athletic performance.