What Does Stretching Do To Your Body? Experts explain

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Any kind of stretching is good for your body, whether you’re doing a triangular pose in yoga class, stretching your quads after a HIIT workout, or touching your toes while watching TV. As long as you move and bend regularly, experts say you’ll see some pretty cool benefits. To better understand how much this helps your body, of course, you’ll want to educate yourself on the mechanisms behind the recovery practice.

So what’s the point of stretching? A stretch is simply the act of lengthening or flexing your body to relieve tension in muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments, says Austin Martinez, MS, CSCS, ATC, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and director of education at StretchLab. “I recommend people to stretch every day,” he tells Bustle. “It doesn’t have to be a very long session, but even 10 minutes can make a huge difference in how you feel.”

Experts recommend such regular stretches as you will start to feel the effects if you don’t. Do you know how tight your hips start to feel after too many hours of vegetating? Or the way your hamstrings feel tight after a long run? When you are physically active, your muscles tend to get shorter because they are contracted for movement. But your muscles can also shorten when you sit at your desk for too many hours at a time or fail to engage in proper postural alignment. Either way, this tightness wreaks havoc on your overall mobility, so you’ll have less range of motion.

While you can still benefit from a full body stretching routine, Martinez recommends paying the most attention to areas that feel tight and stretching them for 20-30 seconds. This can include doing a lunge with a lateral flexion to stretch your obliques, lying on the floor and pulling an extended leg for a hamstring stretch, or doing slow head rolls to work out stiffness in the body. neck.

If the movement releases the tension and relaxes the muscles, you are on the right track. As well as feeling really good, keep scrolling to find out what stretching does to your body (and your overall health).

7 benefits of stretching

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1. It relaxes stiff muscles

One of the most immediate and noticeable benefits of stretching is how it relieves stiff muscles, something you might experience on a regular basis if you’re stuck in the same position for awhile at work or after doing the stretch. shuttle in traffic.

Incorporating small stretching breaks into your day will help you move better, sit more comfortably, and think more clearly, says Kimberlee Morrison, certified yoga teacher and founder of Love Revolution Yoga. This is because stretching lengthens your muscles, which they need after they have been shortened – otherwise, they are more prone to being strained or damaged.

2. It helps prevent and relieve pain

Stretching plays a key role in preventing workout stiffness – which is why it is a staple of a healthy fitness routine. Martinez recommends doing dynamic stretches before a workout – that is, those that are moving and fluid, like lunges and twists. “These are often done as a warm-up to prepare the body for activity,” he says, as they increase circulation, lubricate joints, and strengthen sensory receptors, which prepares you to move.

Once you are done with a workout, this is when you will get started with static stretches – those without movement. These include classic toe touches and standing shoulder stretches, or any pose that you hold for a while rather than moving around. The goal is to hold each one for about 20 seconds, which Martinez says is just long enough to increase your range of motion, improve flexibility, and aid recovery after exercise.

3. It helps reduce the risk of injury

Some studies have shown that stretching can also help prevent stiff muscle injuries, which is something to keep in mind if you like to exercise. “When our bodies are stiff, they don’t move efficiently,” says Morrison. But regular stretching can improve flexibility, reduce tension in your body, and thus reduce the risk of muscle strain or joint injury.

4. It makes you better at sports

Okay, stretching might not make you better at sports, but it can improve your athletic performance, again by increasing your joint mobility as well as your all-important range of motion, says Martinez. Consider moving sideways while playing tennis, kayaking, or pedaling a bicycle. All of these movements will be much smoother when your muscles are relaxed and ready to move.

5. It improves posture

Stretch regularly and you can expect your posture to improve, says Lauren Arps, professional trainer and certified yoga instructor. Stretching improves your body awareness, which means you’ll be more naturally insightful when you need to stand up straight and push your shoulders back. It also makes the job easier, which is a plus for anyone with a habit of slouching.

6. It helps clear your mind

A big stretch has a way to clear the mind, says Jennifer McCamish, Pilates instructor and founder of fitness studio Shape Method. The reason? “Stretching brings oxygen to the brain and body, which can help you wake up and feel refreshed,” she tells Bustle, noting that you only need a minimum of 10 minutes. to take advantage of these benefits.

7. It improves sleep

According to Sam Gach, a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and flexibility trainer, stretching can improve your sleep because of the way it relaxes the muscles in the body. When you connect a stretch to a deep breath, like you would in yoga, it can increase your relaxation even more. Do some stretches right before bed and see if you catch more Zzz.

The best time to stretch

It doesn’t matter when or where you stretch, as long as you do it and make it a habit. So whether you’re stretching in the morning, mid-afternoon, or just before bed, stick to the routine and enjoy your increasingly flexible independence.

Referenced studies:

D’Aurea CVR, Poyares D, Passos GS, Santana MG, Youngstedt SD, Souza AA, Bicudo J, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Effects of resistance training and stretching on chronic insomnia. Braz J Psychiatry. 2019 Jan-Feb; 41 (1): 51-57. doi: 10.1590 / 1516-4446-2018-0030. Published online October 11, 2018. PMID: 30328967; PMCID: PMC6781703.

Lee, DY, Nam, CW, Sung, YB, Kim, K., & Lee, HY (2017). Changes in rounded shoulder posture and forward head posture according to exercise methods. Journal of the Science of Physical Therapy, 29(10), 1824-1827. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.29.1824.

Opplert J, Babault N. Acute effects of dynamic stretching on muscle flexibility and performance: a review of the current literature. Med. Athletic. 2018 Feb; 48 (2): 299-325. doi: 10.1007 / s40279-017-0797-9. PMID: 29063454.

Page, P. (2012). Current concepts of muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. Int J Sport Physics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/

Peck, E. (2014). The effects of stretching on performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports: May / June 2014 – Volume 13 – Number 3 – p 179-185doi: 10.1249 / JSR.0000000000000052

Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Warming Up and Stretching in Muscle Injury Prevention. Med. Athletic. 2007; 37 (12): 1089-99. doi: 10.2165 / 00007256-200737120-00006. PMID: 18027995.

Experts:

Austin Martinez, MS, CSCS, ATC, Director of Education at StretchLab

Kimberlee Morrison, Certified Yoga Teacher and Founder of Love Revolution Yoga

Jennifer McCamish, Pilates instructor and founder of the Shape Method fitness studio

Sam Gach, Certified Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor and Flexibility Coach



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