The Importance of Stretching
We are very lucky that with the lovely weather we have here in GA it encourages many sports … running, walking, padel, watersports, etc. What I don´t often see though is stretching – either after exercise or as an activity in its own right so I thought it worthwhile to talk about the many benefits of stretching.
Improvement of posture: Most people suffer over time from the shortening of the muscles in the back which limits movement and contributes to bad posture. Stretching can help restore the freedom of movement of these muscles, improve posture and avoid the onset of back pain.
Increased range of movement (ROM) in joints: A sedentary lifestyle over the years will eventually reduce joint movement which can have a significant impact on quality of life. To avoid this, the best prevention is to include stretching in every exercise that you do.
Prevention of injury: An improved posture and full ROM will help prevent muscle injuries.
Assists blood flow to the muscles: Tense muscles actually make it more difficult for blood circulation to reach their interior and this increases blood pressure. In contrast, a stretched muscle makes circulation easier and with it the delivery of nutrients.
Reduces muscular pain from exercise (DOM) Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness: A stretched muscle improves the supply of nutrients and oxygen and it repairs itself better after hard work that has caused micro-traumatisms.
Decreases the effects of stress: Stretching reduces muscular tension and relaxes our mental state. One of the effects of stress is an increase in muscular tension and by reducing this tension through stretching we can improve our mental state.
As we can see, the benefits of stretching are many. Throughout my career I have been convinced of the importance of stretching and whatever we do and however hard we train, be it aerobic, anaerobic, strength, resistance, etc, if we don´t stretch then in the short, medium or long term we will experience various physical problems.
It is advisable to stretch after each workout, spending at least 40 seconds on each muscle. Beginners can use a watch to time this but as you become more expert you will be able to feel yourself when your muscle is sufficiently stretched.
Always start with the largest muscles and then the smaller ones. The atmosphere for stretching is important too. Somewhere silent or with gentle music will mean you can relax mentally as well as physically. Breathing is also important as the muscles need oxygen to relax even more and you get a longer stretch if you breathe in and out deeply.
Concentrate whilst stretching …. don´t be distracted by thinking about everything you have to do later … clear your mind and visualize that with each exhalation your muscle is stretching further and further.
If you are only doing stretching, two or three times a week is ideal but everyone´s situation is different and twice a week would be a great start.
I hope you put this into practice. When you see how much better you feel after stretching, I´m sure you won´t give it up!
Gabriela Auzoberria Calvo
Pilates Teacher – Mat and Reformer