We talk a lot about exercise—building muscle, staying at a healthy weight, and keeping your heart healthy with aerobic fitness. But there’s another physical activity, often-overlooked, that you need to practice for a healthy lifestyle—especially as you age. It’s maintaining good flexibility, and stretching is the way to achieve it.
Stretching: Overlooked but Important
Your body and muscles need to stretch to protect your mobility and health. It’s not just something for athletes to do before or after working out—it’s important for everyone. And stretching must happen on a regular basis for it to benefit you. Experts agree that daily stretching is best, but at least three or four days a week is beneficial, too.
The good news is that short stretching sessions are all you need.
Benefits of Stretching
Stretching keeps your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. This is important to maintain the range of motion you need in your joints. Without stretching, muscles become tight and shorten. This puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
Regular stretching gives you the following benefits:
1) Increases flexibility
Flexibility is critically important to your well-being. Not only does it help you perform your daily activities with ease, it also greatly decreases the problems with mobility that naturally occur as you age.
2) Improves performance in physical activity
Stretching increases your range of motion and helps your muscles perform better in physical activity, including daily activities, athletic events, and exercise.
3) Improves posture
Stretching certain muscle groups helps align and improve your posture.
4) Increases blood flow
Stretching on a regular basis increases blood flow to your muscles and improves circulation. This increased blood flow reduces muscle soreness from working out.
5) Helps prevent and heals back pain
Tight muscles increase the likelihood of straining your back, and stretching can help heal back injuries. Stretching can also prevent back pain from happening in the first place by strengthening these important back muscles.
6) Provides stress relief and calms your mind
Stress tightens your muscles. Neck, shoulder, and upper back stretches can relieve this tightness. Stretching can also give your mind a mental break and help you relax.
7) Helps decrease tension headaches
Stretching can help reduce the tension that causes stress headaches.
8) Good for your glutes
Many of us sit a lot at work, and that’s not good for your body. Prolonged sitting causes glute muscles to degenerate. When this happens, other muscles and joints in your body become stressed, and this commonly causes knee and lower back pain. If you sit a lot for work, keep your glutes stretched out as much as possible throughout the day by getting up and stretching periodically.
9) Strengthens your spine
When your spine becomes tight, it causes problems up and down your entire body. Back stretches help keep your spine strong and healthy.
10) Gives you better balance
Stretching helps you maintain good balance as you age which prevents falls. And for women who carry a heavy purse, or people who sling a backpack over one shoulder, stretching helps keeps their body in balance.
11) Finishes up a workout the right way
After a workout, stretching out the muscles you just trained makes them feel less tense.
12) Decreases risk of injury
Muscles that are regularly stretched are much less likely to become injured with regular activity or workouts.
How to Get Started
As a client at Jesse James Fit or Outlaw FitCamp, we’ll show you the stretches you need to practice regularly to experience the benefits we listed above. We can assess your muscle strength and tailor a stretching program to meet your needs. And we’ll make sure to show you proper form and technique.
When starting a stretching routine, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Hold stretches for 30 seconds. Don’t bounce! This can cause injury.
- You should feel tension during a stretch, but not pain. If you feel pain, stop stretching that muscle.
- Modify and adapt stretching exercises to work for you. For example, you may want to put padding under your knees or try the same stretch sitting down, lying down, or standing up if it’s more comfortable for you.
- Instead of telling yourself, “I’m not flexible,” or “I hate stretching exercises,” replace this self-talk with, “This is really good for my body,” or “I’m getting more flexible every time I stretch.” Are you aware how important self-talk is to your success? Here’s our recent blog post about it.
- Focus on the major muscle groups. Most of the benefit of stretching is found in your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders.
- Stretch consistently. To reap the benefits, stretching needs to be done regularly. Aim for at least three to four times a week. A short daily stretching routine will do wonders for you!
- The beauty of stretching exercises is that you can do them anytime and anywhere.
Invest a Short Amount of Time and Reap Big Benefits!
At Jesse James Fit or Outlaw FitCamp we can help design a short but effective stretching routine for you. If you can practice just 10 to 15 minutes of stretching every day, or on most days, you’ll maintain the flexibility you need to stay mobile and healthy as you age. You’ll increase your range of motion, improve your posture, and feel more relaxed.
Stretching provides a lot of benefits with a small investment of time. Add stretches to your daily routine and see for yourself!