Exploring the importance of stretching

Michael Tracey, General Assignment Reporter

One of the most beneficial and straightforward exercises you can do is stretching. However, many people don’t do it in their daily lives. Understanding the importance of stretching will assist in creating a solid foundation for physical health and wellbeing. Stretching sustains the muscles by keeping them strong, healthy, and flexible. Performing the correct stretching exercises will assist with developing and maintaining optimal fitness. Stretching is an essential component of fitness as much as performing cardiovascular and strength exercises. Believe it or not, extending a muscle group to its entire length is an involuntary and natural behavior even for those who don’t deliberately stretch as a routine. For example, the body instinctively desires a stretch after long periods of inactivity or sitting.

There is an abundance of health benefits that come from doing sufficient stretching exercises. Stretching might seem like it’s only for athletes or health professionals, but it’s a healthy practice for everyone. Whether you tilt your neck to the side or bend over to reach your toes, all methods help your body. Doing so improves flexibility, posture, and increases blood flow to your muscles.

Keeping your muscles healthy allows the body to maintain the freedom of motion in the joints. Without the proper consistency of stretching exercises in daily life, muscles will shorten and become tight. As a result, muscles and joints will have difficulty performing up to standard when needed to extend and lift objects. It can also put the body at risk for strains, joint pains, and muscle damage as one ages. Simply put, any physical exertion won’t be detrimental to the body if the right amount of stretching happens. 

Fundamental benefits of stretching

The first key benefit of stretching focuses on flexibility. Engaging the muscles will improve length, strengthen mobility, and refine posture and range of motion. Additionally, as the muscles tighten and shorten with age, consistently stretching and enhancing flexibility will prevent potential bodily injuries. Finally, as flexibility increases with time, stretching will become easier to perform. Another critical benefit that results from stretching routines is improved circulation and blood flow. 

Not only is stretching important for the body, but it is also vital for promoting positive mental health. For example, stretching is fantastic for stress relief. Muscles tend to be tense when the body has high emotional and physical stress levels. As a result, focusing on meditation exercises and incorporating mindfulness while you stretch can allow the mind to have a much-needed break. One of the best ways to do this is by trying out Yoga. 

“Yoga combines stretching, breath, and meditation, with the goal to overall reduce stress and enhance performance,” Amy Bobenrieth, a yoga instructor at the University of North Florida (UNF), told Spinnaker. 

UNF’s Recreation and Wellness Center hosts multiple weekly yoga classes to choose from: mixed level, power, relaxing, and slow flow yoga. There is a class or style of Yoga for everyone!

How to get started with a daily routine

There are many options to begin daily stretching routines. First, YouTube is a highly accessible location to find free videos with tutorials for all-level stretching exercises. Podcasts, blogs, apps, and news articles spread across the web to benefit each Yoga style.

One example of a common stretch is a hamstring stretch which keeps the muscles in the back of the thighs flexible. Go ahead and begin by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of your body. Now slide your hands down your legs until you feel a burning sensation. Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly return to a sitting position. Another critical aspect to keep in mind is to breathe into a stretch slowly and deeply. You should never hold your breath when doing any stretching exercises.

Players stretch.
Players stretch. (Justin Nedrow)

Another excellent opportunity to increase your health is combining western and traditional medicine by adding a physical therapist into your monthly or yearly routine. Physical therapists are the ideal professionals to stretch the body properly and teach patients how to thrive with their bodies. In addition, physical therapists complete an examination and share professional advice about which muscles in the body you should focus on for stretching and building a plan to advance your mobility.

Last but not least, a modern option has arrived for those seeking out the benefits of stretching, but who enjoy added relaxation. This business is called StretchLab and began in 2015 to set the world of stretching on fire. It’s a unique wellness concept that offers customized assisted sessions in a comfortable group or individual setting. Each session provides a one-on-one approach and stretches performed on custom-made benches. 

Their employees joyfully recognize themselves as Flexologists. Flexologists have a wide range of backgrounds, knowledge and are certified or licensed in various health fields. Spinnaker found StretchLab Flexologists can range from massage therapists, personal trainers, reflexologists, chiropractors, yoga instructors, and more when diving deeper. 

Visit StretchLab’s official website to find out more information and where to get started. Rest assured, the stretching routines learned at StretchLab will make one a master at the art and will prove to be more beneficial than most options.

A return to form

Whether you go to a physical therapist, watch a video on YouTube, or visit a StretchLab, stretching adds a positive routine for your mental and physical health with fortitude. It’s essential to have the correct execution every time so that you don’t risk injury regardless of age or physical strength; Incorrect stretching can cause pain and discomfort in the future and the present. Make sure to warm up and get the blood flowing with a light exercise beforehand for five to ten minutes. 

“The best way to prevent injury while stretching is to actually start with a proper warm-up,” Kacie Smith, a UNF Fitness and Group Fitness Coordinator, said. “A warm-up can be any activity that elevates the body’s core and muscle temperatures.” 

When performing a stretch, focus on your breathing, and be patient. While mid-stretch, keep in mind that bouncing or holding for too long can cause harm to the muscles and joints. Instead, hold each stretch for 30 seconds, breathe deeply into the discomfort, and feel the tension of the targeted muscle. Do not over-stretch or push your muscles out of your comfort level. Doing so can lead to extended and high pain levels. If pain continues in a particular muscle or joint, there may be tissue damage, so speak with a doctor before stretching again. As Kacie mentioned before, it is vital, to begin with, a warm-up to prevent injury, such as a low to moderate intensity walk. 

Remember, it can take weeks and months to become flexible, so remember to stay consistent. Overall, keeping up with daily routines is the primary way to reap the benefits of stretching. In addition, understanding the benefits of stretching will inspire people to include it in their daily lives more often.


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