What are the benefits of stretching?

what are the benefits of stretchingWhat are the benefits of stretching? Stretching can often be overlooked when it comes to fitness and bodybuilding, however stretching has many benefits.

Flexibility is one of the 5 components of physical fitness. Having good flexibility will have a positive effect on the other forms of exercise that you perform, including cardiovascular fitness and weight training.

What are the benefits of stretching?

Stress relief

Exercise in general is considered to be a good way of releasing stress and easing tension, and stretching is no exception to this. When we become tense or stressed our muscles tighten which can cause us to feel more uneasy, and performing some light stretching exercises helps to release that tension and ultimately makes us feel better. Stretching like other forms of exercise is thought to release endorphins, helping us to further feel better and more relaxed.

Improve your circulation

Stretching has been proved to increase blood circulation. Improved blood circulation means nutrients will be supplied to different parts of the body quicker, including the muscles. Improved circulation can help with muscle building, injury recovery and possibly even injury prevention. It can prevent or reduce muscle soreness and better removal of waste such as lactic acid from the body. Improved circulation can even result in us having higher energy levels as it allows more oxygen to be transferred to the muscles and around the body.

Improve motion of the joints and muscles

If you have a good range of motion then we can move better, it can also help us to maintain our balance which can also help us to prevent falls and injuries. Improved range of motion will also have an obvious effect on our sporting activities, running faster, jumping higher, reacting quicker and better recovery times.

Help to prevent lower back problems

Stretching and having good flexibility helps us to maintain good posture. Good posture is a good way to help keep lower back problems at bay. Stretching doesn’t just improve flexibility it can actually strengthen our muscles as well, further helping our bodies to stay strong and healthy.

As we age it becomes even more important to stretch, one of the effects of aging is that our muscles become shorter and tighter therefore limiting our movement and increasing the chance of injuries. Spending some time stretching really does make life easier and more comfortable, especially as we get older.

Stretching is a very natural thing, animals do it and we also do it unconsciously, and it also feels good. Help your body to stay active and healthy and dedicate a little extra time to performing some stretches a few times a week.

Just a word of warning! you can actually injury yourself while stretching, especially if your muscles are cold, because they are less flexible. Always make sure your muscles are warm before attempting to stretch them. Also don’t over stretch, you should feel discomfort from the stretch, but if that discomfort becomes a more serious pain, stop because you may be risking injury.

Benefits of Cooling Down Exercises

Cooling the body down after a workout with exercises allows the body to return to its normal state in a controlled fashion, this includes slowly lowering your heart and breathing rates.

During a strenuous workout your body produces waste from your muscles, tendons and ligaments. Performing cooling down exercises will help to release the build up of waste and toxins. You will also benefit from improved and faster recovery times.

Cooling down can help prevent delayed muscle soreness, which is common after a strenuous workout or performing certain exercises. Stretching releases the latic acid build up in your muscles, potentially helping to reduce the muscle soreness.

Types of cooling down exercises

  • Light weights – Performing light resistance training after a weight training routine slowly returns the blood flow back to normal, a sudden stop in exercise can cause your blood pressure to drop which can cause dizziness and it could even result in a loss of consciousness.
  • Stretching – If you are prone to soreness of a particular muscle, stretching will help to ease that soreness. Stretching your muscles after a workout will release waste toxins and lactic acid from the body. Stretching will also help to keep the blood circulating around your muscles which will aid with muscle growth and it will help your body to recover quicker.
  • Light aerobic – After an intense aerobic workout performing light aerobic exercises can be effective for returning your heart rate and breathing back to normal which can also help to prevent dizziness and muscle stiffness.

Other cooling down tips

  • Drink a protein shake, because the protein is consumed in liquid form it will be absorbed by the body quicker, the protein will help your body to repair and recover more quickly from any form of strenuous exercise.
  • Keep your body hydrated after your workout as this will also aid with your bodies repair and recovery.

Warming Up Benefits & Exercises?

Should you be warming up before your workouts and what are the benefits of warming up? Plus a few example exercises.

Aerobic warm up

The aim of an aerobic warm up is to simply and slowly increase your heart rate, breathing rate and blood circulation to prepare the body for intense aerobic exercising.

Benefits of aerobic warm ups

Slowly warming up your heart and lunge activity will help your body to ready itself for exercise. It will also improve your performance, therefore helping to get better results. Plus it could help to prevent dizziness and injuries.

Stretching

Before performing any stretching exercises you should warm up your muscles first, stretching your muscles while they’re cold could lead to muscle pulls or other more serious injuries.

Benefits of stretching

Stretching makes your muscles more elastic and it reduces the risk of injury, muscle pulls and tears.

Example Warm Up Exercises

  • Light weight lifting – high reps
  • Short jog
  • Arm circles
  • Hip rotations
  • Star jumps

For the warm up to be beneficial you just need to get your muscles warmed up and the blood circulating around your body.

Muscle warm ups

This is just to get the blood circulating in the muscles, a good way to do this is to perform light weight resistance exercises, a light resistance warm up is ideal before beginning a weight training session.

Benefits of warming up

  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Improved performance during your workout.
  • Stronger
  • Faster
  • More flexible

Duration

Duration depends on a few factors, like your body temperature, which is also effected by the climate. If you are very cold for example, you may have been outside in winter conditions then you’ll need to spend more time warming up.

You will also need to spend more time warming up if you’re training first thing in the morning, your muscles and tendons will be cold and less elastic.

My warm ups

Before my workout routines I tend to do a few quick resistance exercises using light weights, plus exercises such as, arm circles, hip rotations. When it’s very cold I will spend a few minutes on the treadmill, running is a very effective way to warm up your whole body. I also tend to do some stretching before and during my workouts, just quick stretching to my chest, triceps, hamstrings and calves.

Summary

You normally only need to spend a few minutes warming up, however it’s very important in preventing injuries and improving your workout performance.