Why Stretch? Why Not?
We constantly hear about the importance of cardio workouts to improve heart health. But what about our other muscles? They are just as important! No matter your fitness level, we should all be stretching daily as regular stretching not only improves flexibility but ensures independence! Muscle flexibility is necessary for optimal range of motion in the joints. When we’re stiff, our muscles shorten and become tight which leads to weakness and increased risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
Well..another dose of honesty. I, Cindy Saylor have every good intention to stretch every day. I tell myself the night before, start your day with some stretches. Do I do it...? NO! What is it that I do not do what is good for me. When we know something is good for us, why do we ignore it? Hummmm...that sounds like another blog post. Back to stretching! Stretching is good for your brain. Make it part of your mental fitness plan. Which means...just do it! If you need more encourgagement, lets take a look at the benefits to stretching. types of stretches and different methods of stretching.
Get ready.....there is going to be a whole lot of stretchign going on.
There are many benefits associated with stretching. The top five benefits of stretching (according to the Mayo Clinic) include:
INCREASED FLEXIBILITY AND RANGE OF MOTION Flexibility can diminish as we age which is why it’s so important to maintain!
IMPROVED CIRCULATION By improving blood circulation, waste byproduct removal is improved.
BETTER POSTURE Stretching keeps muscles from getting tight (which in turn maintains posture and minimizes associated pain).
STRESS RELIEF Stretching relaxes tense muscles that often accompany stress.
ENHANCED COORDINATION Maintaining range of motion helps to maintain balance to keep you mobile.
Additional benefits may include: - Increased power - Increased endurance - More efficient neuromuscular activation - Increased speed of contraction - Improvements in mental preparedness
THIS IS WHY!
Low back pain is one of the most common conditions that stretching can improve. Long days spent sitting shortens and tightens back muscles causing tension on joints.
Hips are another area subject to frequent tension. (We tend to hold a lot of stress in the hips, so simple hip opener stretches can help reduce tension and soreness.)
Tight hamstrings are a common complaint. Even with regular stretching, hamstrings can take years to loosen; however, regular stretching will improve flexibility which can also reduce low back issues.
The neck and shoulders are other common offenders. Cell phone use has also become an issue, with many people spending hours hunched over playing games or surfing the web on their cell phone. Stress can also be held in the shoulders.
Thankfully, frequent stretches throughout the day can help improve tightness and improve posture.
"Choose stretching over stressing." Buddha
It’s important to keep in mind that a single stretch session won’t magically improve flexibility. A daily stretching routine will deliver the best benefits, though, stretching at least 3-4 times a week can also be beneficial. Time and patience are key. Muscles didn’t tighten overnight, so expecting huge results after a single session isn’t realistic. It can take weeks even months to get flexible, and as long as you remain committed, you will achieve your goals.
The good news is you don’t have to stretch every single muscle every day. The muscles to focus on include: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis, your quadriceps in the front of the thigh You may also want to include stretches for the neck, shoulders, and low back.
Remember, you don’t want to stretch muscles before they are warmed up, so either stretch after your workout or following a light walk!)
4 TYPES of STRETCHES
Static stretching is the act of holding a comfortable but stretched position for 10 to 30 seconds. This is the most common form of stretching. Static stretching is a useful post-workout cooldown.
Tips: Spend 5-10 minutes following a workout. Lengthen the targeted muscle and hold for at least 15-20 seconds for 1 to 2 rounds. As flexibility improves hold stretches for longer. Stretch both sides equally. Never stretch to the point of pain, you should feel the stretch, but it shouldn’t hurt. Don’t hold your breath; breathing will help you relax deepening the stretch.
Dynamic stretching requires more thoughtful coordination than static stretching and takes soft tissues to their full length and rather than holding it. Dynamic stretching is performed by controlled, smooth, and deliberate movement. Dynamic stretches should be performed daily and pre-workout to improve flexibility, range of movement, and increase blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Pre-activity dynamic stretching exercises have been shown to improve performance requiring power, strength, or speed.
Tips: Start with the joint in a neutral position. Using a slow controlled moveme