Saturday, November 24, 2012

Why You Need to Stretch

The body is flexible. Or, it is supposed to be flexible. You must be able to bend and reach that something you dropped on the floor. You need to be able to zip the back of your favorite dress on your own. You must be able to reach that book you need off the top shelf.

These are simple activities. Nothing grand about them, you merely stretched out a bit. However, if there are difficulties in doing such simple motions, then you have a problem, and it's time for a stretching program.

English: An elderly at stretching exercises in gym
An elderly man at stretching exercises in gym (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What Is Stretching?

Stretching is simply the act of extending to full length the body or a part of it. This activity involves straightening or stretching the structure or the limbs.

How Does One Properly Do Stretching?

Stretching is fairly easy. As mentioned in the introduction, it is involved in many normal daily activities. It can be done by any people, regardless of age.

However the extent of stretching and flexing differs. The muscles tighten as a person ages. The range of joint movements can be minimized. This can very well obstruct an on-the-go lifestyle. That is why as the person grows older, bending or flexing becomes more limited. This is why stretching regularly as part of a routine is very important.

Simple stretches can be done every day. They can be easily incorporated in your lifestyle and daily activities, and don't have to require a lot of time.

Stretching exercises can also be done while training or working out. Actually, stretching is an essential part of any training or sport. It must be done first before anything else. Stretching the body and the limbs is a good preparation for a more rigorous activity - and also should be done after a workout as well.

There is actually an ideal length of time in stretching. It is best to do your stretching routine for about 10 minutes. This will give the body enough opportunity to move and flex all of the muscles, thus preparing it for more complicated and strenuous movements. Experts however would frown upon going much beyond 10 minutes. Stretching for 30 minutes or more can wear out the body and even over-stretch some muscles, causing soreness and tightness later - the exact opposite of what you want. (Forms of exercise that incorporate stretching, such as yoga, are exceptions - they provide alternating muscle contractions and stretches, which can be a great way to gain flexibility and strength at the same time.)

What Are the Benefits of Stretching?

1. Increase the Range of Movement
As one constantly does stretching exercises, the length of the muscles and the tendons are increased. This will help in increasing the range of your movement. Thus, the limbs and joints will be able to move easily, way before an injury can take place. Range of movement is very important for overall physical fitness.

2. Increased Ability to Perform Skills
When you have a wide range of movement, you will be able to do more things. For example, you can jump high without feeling any pain when you land back on the floor. This will also help you start a new sport or improve if you are already participating in one. Stretching in this aspect also allows you to have a more active lifestyle, which gives you a better chance of living a longer and healthier life.

US Navy 080813-N-8546L-254 Master Chief Miguel...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3. Injury Prevention
One can prevent injury to joints, tendons and muscles with stretching. When the muscles and tendons are well-flexed, they are considered in good working order. This will help in a faster recovery and decreased soreness. The muscles of the body will be able to take more exhausting and rigorous movements with less probability of being injured.

4. Reduce Muscle Tension
If the muscles are given regular exercise and stretching, it is less likely that they will contract painfully, and can help loosen sore spots or knots. This can definitely help relieve you of any muscle pain or problems.

5. Enhance Energy
Being able to move more will also give you more energy. Stretching will also help enhance your self-awareness, like knowing that you have a body that is capable of doing many things. As such, you are going to be more driven to move and stay active.

6. Reduces Cholesterol
Research also shows that doing prolonged stretching exercises, like yoga, will help reduce the cholesterol in the body. This of course must be done hand-in-hand with a healthy diet. This could prevent and even reverse the hardening of the arteries, allowing you to avoid coronary diseases.

Incorporate stretching in your everyday lifestyle. It has benefits you can not say no to. It also does not require much. It can be your usual activities, bending and flexing every now and then. After all, your fitness is everything so do what it takes to keep your body healthy and flexible. See below for some helpful stretching exercise resources.

Stretching Guidance:
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