We all have had those times when we say “I’ll start my workout regimen tomorrow” or “my healthy eating begins tomorrow” where tomorrow becomes a week, a month and before you know it, a new year. The best strategy to adding a new routine is to start early in the day and take small steps in incorporating it. In terms of physical health, one of the many habits we hear trainers and physical therapists encourage their clients to add to their morning routine is stretching. Stretching sounds boring and may cause discomfort for some people but it is as equally important in a well-balanced fitness routine as doing strength and cardio exercises.
As we age and when we do strength training and cardio exercises, our muscles contract or shorten and become less elastic. Exercising without stretching creates an imbalance in our muscles and our body overall leading to overcompensation of certain muscles and joints for those that are too tight to engage appropriately which can cause strain and discomfort. Stretching is a way of lengthening the muscles which helps improve and maintain their length and flexibility allowing us to continue to be mobile without pain and reduce risk of injury.
Although stretching may feel uncomfortable at first, just remember that with time it will get easier and feel more natural. To further encourage you to start stretching TODAY, we have highlighted five important benefits of stretching:
1. Increase range of movements in the joints
Being able to move a joint through its full range of motion gives you more freedom of movement. One study found that both static and dynamic stretching are effective when it comes to increasing range of motion, while proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)-type stretching, where you stretch a muscle to its limit, may be more effective for immediate gains.
2. Reduce muscle tension
Over time, tight muscles will restrict your movement and inhibit your ability to do specific exercises properly. Stretching ensures that your muscles are loose and eases your ability to do daily activities.
3. Increase blood flow to your muscles
Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness.
4. Improve posture
When you stretch, you lengthen tight muscles that tend to pull parts of your body away from their intended positions. It is important to keep your muscles loose, especially in the back and torso. This helps to keep your spine in alignment and to relieve backaches and back pain. When back pain is alleviated, you tend to have better posture.
5. Increase flexibility and maintain mobility
Not only can improved flexibility help you perform everyday activities with relative ease, but it can also help delay the reduced mobility that can come with aging.