We’ve all heard the saying, “Use it or lose it,” but when it comes to keeping your body flexible, I like to say, “loose it or lose it. As much as we’ve read and heard about the importance of stretching (especially as we age and become less active or have sedentary jobs), it can be much easier said than done but considering the benefits, it’s crucial to get loose.
Benefits of Stretching:
- Improves Posture – Muscles that are tight and tense, can encourage poor posture. For example, if you sit at a desk all day, the natural position is to hunch over your computer keyboard. This position shrinks the chest muscles and leads to stooped shoulders causing neck, back and shoulder strain.
- Relieves stress – stretching muscles can reduce tension that is brought on by stress or anxiety. In addition, when our bodies are under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered and our bodies tense up. This creates tightness and pain in areas such as our neck, shoulders and back. When we stretch, this tension is released, minimizing the strain and reducing the stress and pain.
- Increases flexibility and range of motion – When you stretch, you increase your flexibility as your muscle becomes more elastic. This reduces the amount of energy to make the same movements and you decrease your chance of injury. Many injuries occur doing simple tasks or daily activities.
- Promotes healthy joints – stretching increases elasticity in your tendons which connect your muscles to your bones. This allows your joints to move through their full range of motion, reducing injury to knees, ankles, elbows and other jointed areas.
- Promotes balance and coordination – the more flexible our muscles are, the better able we are to balance our bodies and the better coordination we have. Being flexible allows us to move with more ease and elasticity reducing risks of falls, trips or tumbles.
- Improves circulation – Stretching stimulates blood flow to the muscles. Increased blood circulation helps to reduce the heart rate so it’s not having to work as hard and regulates blood pressure. This will also help reduce muscle soreness after a workout.
- Reduces lower back pain – stretching your legs, primarily your hamstrings can reduce the stress on muscles surrounding your spine and lower back. Keeping these muscles supple will reduce the strain on your lower back, thus reducing chronic lower back pain and possibly the need for pain medications or anti-inflammatories.
- Improves quality of sleep – Because our bodies may remain in one position for hours at a time during sleep, it is important to stretch our muscles prior to going to bed. This will reduce the incident of muscle cramps, tightness or spasms throughout the night. It is also important to have a little stretch session each morning as we get out of bed.
There are many more benefits to stretching your body and keeping your muscles flexible. Just a few minutes per day can greatly reduce the risk of injury and pain so remember if you don’t loose it, you may lose it!