ASK THE EXPERT: The Benefits of Stretching

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There are several benefits of stretching, and stretching needs to be a part of your fitness program.

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Stretching, in its most basic form, is a natural and instinctive activity. People often stretch instinctively after waking from sleep or after long periods of inactivity. As a form of exercise, stretching involves elongating a specific muscle or muscle group to its fullest length.

Here are the primary benefits of stretching:

Stretching increases flexibility. Flexibility is the degree to which an individual muscle will lengthen. As you get older, your muscles begin to shorten and tighten, restricting your flexibility. Your movement becomes slower and less fluid. You don’t stand up as straight. You find it more difficult to bend down to pick something up. You’re more susceptible to muscle, joint and tendon injuries. Stretching increases flexibility. Increased flexibilty will help you comfortably and fluidly perform life’s daily activities and will help reduce the risk of muscle, joint and tendon injuries.

Stretching improves circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles. Increased blood flow brings more nourishment to the muscles and removes more waste byproducts from the muscles. Improved circulation can also help shorten your recovery time if you’ve had any muscle injuries.

Stretching can eliminate low back pain. Low back pain could be the most common kind of structural pain and it affects a large percentage of the population worldwide. Muscle tightness in the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and low back muscles is a common cause of low back pain. Stretching these muscles will often eliminate the pain.

Stretching is good for the heart. Recent studies have found that stretching can lower blood pressure and improve artery function.

Stretching feels good and is relaxing. Stretching is a good way to cool down and relax after a workout. Stretching is also a good stress reliever.

Stretching Tips

Stretching needs to be performed properly to be beneficial. Here are some stretching tips that will help ensure that you are stretching properly:

• Stretching should be performed a minimum of three days per week in order to improve and maintain flexibility.
• Never stretch cold muscles. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury.
• Never force a stretch beyond the point of mild tension. You should never feel pain when stretching.
• Never throw your body into a stretch or bounce when stretching. Stretching should be fluid and gentle.
• Breathe slowly and easily when stretching. Don’t hold your breath when stretching.

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