There’s a common misconception that stretching is something you do before exercise, or something that only athletes and serious gym-goers do. Did you know that stretching every day can open up the doors to so many different health benefits? Before we get into all of that, first you need to know that there are four main types of stretching that, with proper execution, can help both your mind as well as your body.
Static stretching: stretching your muscle in one position for 30 seconds or longer
Dynamic stretching: Gentle repetitive movements to increase the motion range of your muscles. For example, dynamic hamstring stretching.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): It sounds complicated but it is essentially when you stretch a muscle while contracting and reflexing it.
Bouncing stretches: Stretching into a position and bouncing/ pulsing on it – this is another way to increase your motion range.
The physical reason we stretch is to encourage our muscles to work to their optimum ability and full motion range which in turn, is fantastic for these main reasons:
It strengthens your posture
Bad posture can come about when your muscles are tight – say, you’ve been crouched over a laptop all day or slouching while you walk. A full stretch will help to lengthen all your muscles and pull your body back into alignment. Any muscles that have tightened from a bad posture will effectively be reset. Stretching daily will keep your spine in alignment and this will make a huge difference to lower back pain, chest and shoulder pain. You’ll also train your muscles not to slouch and a straight back will become second-nature.
It will help you to relax
You know that wonderful feeling when you get out of bed after the best night’s sleep and stretch like a cat? That feeling is your body releasing endorphins that flood your whole body with a lovely feeling of happiness. Stretching every day will help you to reach Savasana (the corpse pose) in yoga – it will lengthen and contract your muscles meaning your body relaxes completely. Here, you’ll be able to enter into a state of relaxation and it’s a great place to meditate or just focus on nothing.
It increases your flexibility and motion range
Stretching is imperative to ballerinas and dancers who need to be super flexible and supple in order to perform at their best. Even without being a dancer, flexibility and supple muscles can improve everything you do in your daily life and fitness, especially for when you are reaching your 30s, 40s and 50s.
Bending down or lifting things will remain easy for you and won’t make you more tired.
It improves blood circulation
Stretching out whether you’ve been exercising or not, does wonders for increasing blood flow to your muscles to help them repair and recover. This reduces all kinds of post-workout soreness but even if you’re not exercising, improved blood circulation is good for cell renewal and overall organ function. It can even help your blood pressure as stretching lowers the heart rate and makes you feel altogether more relaxed.
It will leave you with more energy
Practicing dynamic stretches is good for increasing your blood circulation which in turn can help you to feel more energetic. For example, arm swings or lunges are great forms of exercise in their own right which can spruce up your energy levels when you keep it going a few times a week. Static and more relaxed ways of stretching will help your body wind down after a long day and will help you get a restful sleep.