Stretching is one of the most overlooked actions that has a huge impact on the longevity and quality of your life. Many beginner fitness and weightlifting enthusiasts even ignore this important tip. At this point many people are aware of the benefits of weight training and cardiovascular training. But are you stretching?
Regardless of if you are working out or not, you should be stretching.
Reasons for Stretching
1. Stretching Improves Your Posture
Good posture means that your bones are aligned properly. When your bones are aligned properly it means your body is balanced. Your organs are in the right place and your muscles and joints can work properly.
When your posture is off, you put extra stress on certain areas of your body. This can lead to failing joints and pinched nerves.
2. Stretching Improves Your Flexibility
Stretching properly will ultimately improve your flexibility. Flexible joints have a wide range of motion which decrease the chance of injury. It also increases blood flow to the muscles which serves to preserve muscle tissue and prevent atrophy.
Flexibility is one of the first things to go as we age and we need to be proactive to prevent loss of flexibility. We have all seen that “older” person that has to take little baby steps just to walk. The hamstring muscles have tightened so much that the legs no longer have the full range of motion and they are only able to extend a little bit.
We need to do our best at avoiding that outcome because evidently it will increase our chances of a fall, which can be catastrophic.
Another trick to reduce the chances of a fall is to incorporate hip flexor stretches into your daily routine. This will enable you to react quicker by having extra mobility in your hips.
3. Stretching Improves Your Balance
According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of death for older Americans. There are over 27,000 fall related deaths every year in the Unites States alone.(1)
The sad part is that this is fully preventable.
By improving your flexibility and posture through stretching, you will also improve your balance. When your weight is evenly distributed when you have good posture, it is easier to maintain your balance. Also, having a full range of motion will enable you to react to prevent a fall.
There was a study done, that you can check out here, the showed the impact of stretching on balance. It points out that by routinely stretching you become more able to be aware of the spatial position of your body. It also helps to strengthen the intramuscular fibers which aid in stability.(2)
How to Stretch Correctly
First off, you want to stretch when you muscles are warm. So take a quick 5 minute walk, or do some type of physical activity like jumping jacks to get the blood flowing to your muscles. After your body is warmed up, you can begin your stretch routine.
I personally stretch in the morning, before my workout, and before bed but you don’t need to stretch that much right away. Just start and aim for once a day.
When you stretch you want to isolate each muscle group. Stretch until you feel resistance, then hold the stretch for between 15 and 30 seconds. As you are holding the stretch, relax. Focus on breathing in and out and feel the muscle.
I recommend a full body stretch, but if you are short on time make sure you at least do your legs and your back as they are most important to the benefits listed above.
By incorporating a stretching routine into your daily habits, you will increase the quality of your life. By improving your balance, flexibility, and posture your body will be able to function as it should. This will increase your range of motion in your joints and prevent injury and even death.
So whether you decide to take a yoga class or just prefer to start in the comfort of your home, just start. It only takes a few minutes a day and the benefits are incredible.
(1) Falls are leading cause of injury and death in older Americans
(2) Effect of Acute Static Stretching on Force, Balance, Reaction Time, and Movement Time