It’s undeniable that exercise is essential in boosting both physical and mental health. Still, despite the growing number of people taking up various kinds of fitness, surprisingly few have considered the importance of stretching, instead thinking of it as something done only by soccer players or athletes warming up. But stretching is not just for professional sports people and, when done properly, can actually make a huge difference to your overall health. With that in mind, here are five facts about stretching you simply need to know.
Stretching is not only for athletes
Most runners are aware of the benefits of stretching – but did you know it can also help with nearly every other form of exercise, as well as helping patients with conditions like diabetes and depression? In fact, recent studies by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center show that stretching during yoga classes can even benefit women battling breast cancer.
As well as helping to deliver nutrients to your muscles, helping you stay loose, limber and avoid injuries, stretching increases blood flow and boosts oxygen levels in your body.
Stretching is about more than muscles and tendons
While it’s important to stretch muscles and tendons, it’s equally important to stretch your hamstrings, quads and calves. You should also stretch the iliotibial (IT) band which runs from your hip to below your knee on the outside of your leg. Why? Well, this fibrous tissue stabilizes the knee joint during movement, making it crucial that you ensure it’s loose during exercise in order to avoid pain and inflammation. To stretch your IT band, put one hand on the wall, cross your feet and use the leg closest to the wall to push against the opposite knee.
Overstretching of tendons can lead to permanent damage
The fact is that our muscle fibers are very pliable and can stretch up to one and a half times their resting length. Tendons, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as flexible. Stretching a tendon just four percent beyond its original length can cause permanent damage. In most cases, injuries occur when tendons are stretched too quickly or in unexpected directions, which is why it is important that you stretch them slowly and consistently, as any injured runner will tell you with hindsight.
Warm up, then stretch
While many people think of stretching as part of the warm up, the fact is it isn’t. It’s better to warm up initially by jogging at a slow pace, or by spending a few minutes on an exercise bike, to increase blood flow to your muscles. This will in turn allow you to get more out of your stretch.
Remember to incorporate that extra time into your workout routine. If you plan to run on the treadmill for 20 minutes, set aside 35-40 minutes in all and spend five minutes or so warming up, and the next five to 10 minutes stretching, before beginning your actual workout.
Stretching after a workout
It’s very tempting to hit the showers and then relax after you’ve finished a rigorous workout. But even though the hard work is finished, your session isn’t really over. Never forget, It is as important to stretch after you exercise as it is before, perhaps more so. Cool-down stretching, while the muscles are already loose from a workout, will help you recover more quickly and prevent injuries.
Stretching is one of the most important things that everyone who exercises needs to do to avoid injury, strengthen muscles and boost. So before breaking a sweat next time, remember that a few minutes of stretching can help you get more out of your workout and ensure you stay safe and healthy. If you’re looking to pick up more exercise tips to enhance your health and wellness, contact us today – we’re ready to help.