You know that stretching is something that just comes naturally to us all. Whenever you have been in a particular position for an extended period of time, your muscles want to stretch and they will even do it unconsciously. And it really feels good! Besides that good feeling you will find that when you get involved with a consistent muscle stretching program that you will witness large gains in not only your flexibility, but overall joint health and movement as well.
What does stretching do for us?
The act of actual stretching means to lengthen or extend the muscles of your body or your limbs. Frequent stretching will help your body’s development while also maintaining a healthy flexibility level. Stretching is also an excellent way to work your body as an important part of flexibility training. Some examples of stretches that are beneficial are: calf muscle stretches, hamstring stretches, triceps stretching, and also some particular yoga poses including Pilates style exercises.
Flexibility as a part of muscle training is a widely acceptable way to increase your joint mobility, particularly knees and elbows. The goal to look for when stretching is optimizing your joint’s mobility while retaining joint stability. Research has shown how effective different stretching methods can be and how they will improve on joint flexibility. It must also be emphasized that inappropriate or over stretching can create injury rather than improve muscle health. Researchers have recently promoted the benefits of a “range of functional motion”, referring to the proper development while providing just the right amount of flexibility for the activity involved when playing specific sports or other activities. This can be accomplished without compromising your joint stability.
Each of us needs to stretch our muscles, regardless of our age, flexibility level, or gender. Stretching needs to be part of the daily routine, whether involved in an exercise program or not. There are simple and easy stretching activities you can do even while watching TV, surfing the web on your computer, or as you get ready for bed.
What Benefits can we expect from Stretching?
If you do not stretch on a regular basis, your body’s muscles will tighten up. The results being that the range of motion of your joints will minimize and muscles will weaken and even atrophy. In other words you will lose muscle by not using muscle. This can seriously limit the amount of flexibility and ruin a perfectly good and active lifestyle, resulting in limiting your day-to-day activities. Simple everyday tasks like reaching for items on the top shelf or even zipping up a dress may become demanding and even difficult to accomplish without keeping your muscles toned and your joints flexible. You can gain back that range of movement and help your muscles keep on doing what you want them to do by beginning a stretching program, one that is easy enough to do that you will enjoy it each day.
Stretching need not demand a large amount of time each day, but it will provide you with plenty of results! Below are some of the many benefits to be expected from a routine stretching program that you can follow daily:
- Reduction in muscle tension
- Increasing your range of movement in body joints
- Enhancing your muscles and their coordination
- Increasing the circulation to many parts of the body
- Increasingly higher energy levels (as a direct result of increased circulation)
- Muscle fatigue will not be an issue when they are toned.
- Performance in each daily activity including sports, or other physical activities
- Improving your posture by strengthening back muscles
- An increase in mental relaxation (you feel better in mind and body)
- Brings about a variety, satisfaction, and increased enjoyment of daily life and motion.
Stretching is vital for us no matter our age. One great benefit of stretching is your ability to increase the range of motion, and that means your limbs and joints are more flexible so they can move further and have no discomfort or injury as a result of exercising those muscles. Stretching after exercising benefits after a workout because there will be decreased soreness in muscles, while ensuring that your tendons and muscles remain in top condition and good working order. The better condition those muscles and tendons are in, the easier and less stress free they will be able to handle rigorous exercises and sports activities, making them far less likely to become injured.
What Determines Your Flexibility Level?
Four factors are the main influence on your ability to stretch and your flexibility level:
- Age. As we age muscles and connective tissue naturally tend to lose some of their elasticity and become shorter, resulting in increasing muscular stiffness and tightness.
- Previous exercise experience. People who have been active and exercised all their lives will be far more flexible than those who have lead sedentary lives. But there is always room for improvement!
- Body temperature. Warm muscles simply flex better. Think of your muscles as large rubber bands that, when cold, tend to be less flexible than when warmed. And whether you are “warmed up” from exercising or a warmer environment, you will find your muscles will be more flexible when they are warm. It is for this reason that most sports activities include a warm up period before they begin.
- Gender. For some reason, females often tend toward being more flexible than their male counterparts.