An element of physical fitness that is often overlooked is stretching. But the reality is stretching is a fundamental piece that should be incorporated into every fitness routine if not every daily routine. Stretching has numerous health benefits that can be experienced by people of all ages and fitness levels. But what does it really mean to stretch and how do we know if we’re even doing it correctly? Here’s what you need to know about stretching and why it matters for you!
The Specifics of Stretching
Stretching is the act of extending or lengthening a muscle or group of muscles to improve their flexibility and range of motion. This can be done in a variety of ways, including static stretching, dynamic stretching, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching.
Static stretching involves holding the stretch in a static position while dynamic stretching involves moving the body through a range of motion. An example of static stretching is holding your arm across your chest for 30 seconds so that you feel tension in the muscles being stretched. Whereas an example of dynamic stretching is rotating the arm in a clockwork motion for 30 seconds so that the muscles warm up.
PNF stretching combines both static and dynamic stretching techniques! More specifically, it involves contracting muscles usually through a push and release technique. You would hold a static position for 30 seconds and then push the muscle into a deeper stretch for a few seconds before releasing. PNF stretching helps the muscles get into a deeper stretch, allowing for better improvement in flexibility and range of motion.
How Can Stretching Benefit Me?
Stretching has numerous benefits that can help improve your overall health and fitness. If you are active and engage in physical activities that require a lot of movement and exertion, stretching can help reduce your risk of injury. Engaging in physical activities with tight muscles or limited range of motion can put you at greater risk for hurting yourself. By increasing your flexibility and range of motion, you reduce this risk while simultaneously improving your performance.
Stretching can also play a big role in improving posture and balance. Poor posture can lead to a variety of health problems such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches. Stretching can help alleviate these issues by improving the alignment of the spine and strengthening the muscles that help you stand straighter. Regardless of if you’re a young athlete or retiree from years of working at a desk, better posture can help reduce pain and improve overall wellness.
Aside from the physical benefits, stretching can also help reduce stress. When you are stressed, your body’s sympathetic nervous system is turned on which is your body's “fight or flight” mode. Constantly being stressed makes you vulnerable to side-effects such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Stretching turns off this state of high stress by downregulating your nervous system into its parasympathetic mode or “rest and digest” state. This helps calm the mind, boosting your cognition, mood, and emotional well-being!
Am I Stretching Correctly?
One of the biggest questions we see is when you should stretch. Taking a few minutes when you wake up to stretch is a great way to warm up the body and give you a little boost of energy. If you are sitting or standing for long periods of time, you should be taking a few minutes throughout your day to stretch. These little stretch breaks can help loosen up tight muscles and relieve tension throughout your body. And if you’re physically active, stretching before and after exercise can help improve your performance, increase your endurance, and reduce the risk of injury. Not to mention, stretching can help improve circulation and blood flow to the muscles, aiding in the recovery process after a workout.
If you feel that you could really benefit from stretching but are not sure what stretches to do or how to do them properly, consider an assisted stretch! Assisted stretching is when someone assists you with the stretch by helping you hold the stretch longer or deeper. People from all over are incorporating assisted stretching into their routine because of the amazing benefits they’ve been able to feel versus just stretching on their own.
At StretchLab, we specialize in providing customized assisted stretch sessions that are tailored to your individual needs and goals. Our team of highly trained Flexologists will work with you to create a stretching program that is specific to your body’s needs and goals. Our teams are dedicated to helping you move and feel better through the power of stretching. After all, at StretchLab it’s not just about stretching. For us, it’s about the possibilities that you can achieve from getting stretched!