Many people are not as flexible as they’d like. I know I’m not. However, stretching goes far beyond just helping you touch toes. In fact, the benefits of stretching include boosting every day activities outside of sports and exercise.
Whether you’re actively working out or simply want to have an easier time cleaning house, releasing the tension in muscles is greatly beneficial.
Let’s take a look at why you should consider the benefits of stretching daily.
Why is Stretching So Important?
Keeping yourself flexible is key in a lot of different activities. It’s all about keeping the muscles strong and healthy.
In many ways, stretching is about as important as actual workouts themselves. It’s a symbiotic relationship where both of these elements benefit the other.
Practical Benefits of Stretching
Like most exercises, some of the finer benefits of stretching center around practicality. Just like machine curls help with carrying heavy loads of groceries, stretching can help in a variety of ways.
In reality, many of these reasons are why people often practice yoga within their regular exercise routines.
1. Preventing Various Injuries
Keeping the muscles primed through stretching reduces the risk of injury. This includes ripping and tearing cold muscles through exercising or even if you were to fall down a flight of stairs.
I’m not saying you’ll turn into Wolverine with a resistance to damage, but you will suffer fewer injuries overall through stretching.
2. Preparing Yourself for Exercises
Whether you’re hitting the gym for bench presses or playing the Xbox Kinect, stretching reduces the load on your muscles during physical activity. You’ll find that you’re capable of handling far more than you would otherwise.
Take a look at any track and field competition. The first thing all the runners do is practice a bit of dynamic stretching before the race.
3. Helps Invigorate You, Even in the Afternoon
Stretching helps increase blood flow and promotes relaxation in tense muscles. It’s one of the reasons why people stretch first thing in the morning. It can also help you face the last half of your work day.
This is especially helpful for desk jockeys like myself. If you don’t get much movement throughout the work day, take a few minutes to stretch with your lunch.
4. Enhancing Your Flexibility
Being flexible is beneficial in a variety of every day activities. The less stiff you are, the easier it is to move, lift, bend and twist.
The last thing you want is to throw your back out because you bent over to unplug the electric razor.
5. Improves Your Mood
Physical stress does more than simply make your body hurt. Being tense mentally affects you in a bad way, which promotes a “bad mood.” Stretching helps alleviate that stress by relaxing the muscles.
Stretching also encourages the production of endorphin, which is the body’s natural pain-killer. You might not get a “runner’s high” from stretching, but it may help improve your overall mood.
6. Increases Oxygen to Muscles
Humans rely heavily on oxygen in the body. From brain processing power to raw brute strength, oxygen is vital. Stretching helps increase oxygenation of muscles, which improves overall performance of the body. 2
It also has the capacity to relieve certain aches and pains quicker than popping an Advil.
7. Improves Your Posture
Bad posture is a problem for a lot of people. It can lead to tension, headaches and terrible discomfort. Stretching helps by strengthening and loosening muscle groups to improve how you sit and stand.
I know I’ve gone through several bouts with tension headaches because of the terrible chairs I’ve sat on in the past. Stretching helps alleviate a lot of that discomfort.
8. Improves Balance
Stretching has the capacity to improve your physical balance, which makes it less likely for you to trip and fall. This is especially helpful for those who don’t normal train themselves for balance, such as skateboarders or surfers. 3
For those who are prone to accidents, such as my daughter, stretching may help reduce the risk of falling down, or up, a set of stairs.
9. Enhances Range of Motion
Your range of motion is more important than you might think. Being able to twist and bend happens a lot in your daily life, which makes this among the most important benefits of stretching.
I know I could have solved a lot of physical problems if I would have stretched first…such as the tendonitis I now have in my elbow from exercising rigorously.
10. Boosting Your Stamina
Stamina is linked to muscle fatigue. Through prolonged activity, muscles can tire quickly. Stretching helps keep the muscles oxygenated, which helps keep you going for longer periods of time.
Think of why runners stretch before a race. It’s because they know the benefits of stretching legs before hand. In reality, it gives them a “leg up” in the competition.
I know…bad pun.
11. Inspires You to Be Motivated
I bet you didn’t think some benefits of stretching would include motivation to work. However, it’s common to feel a surge of energy after a nice stretch. This is caused by the increased blood flow.
Personally, I know I feel like I can tackle my day of writing after spending a few minutes stretching in the morning…or even in the afternoon.
12. Helps with Lower-Back Pain
This is one of those benefits of stretching that might help me the most. When I was 12, I literally spun myself in half and had back trouble ever since. Doing something like standing toe touches greatly helps my back.
13. Enhances Your Exercise Routines
This kind of goes along with a variety of points above. By improving oxygenation and energizing the muscles, you’ll find your workouts to be more effective. This is partly because it’ll boost stamina.
Instead of getting tired after 20 minutes, you may be able to push yourself to 30 or even 40!
14. Relaxing the Mind
One of the biggest benefits of stretching, and why a lot of people seek yoga, is to relax the mind. In some ways, it’s similar to forms of meditation. You focus more on yourself and clearing your thoughts of negative debris.
It’s helpful if you work in a high-stress environment. And since many stretches are easy to do when wearing a full suit, you can relax throughout the day even in an office.
15. Improves Cardiovascular Health
This is aside from the impact stress has on the heart, and we already know stretching helps relieve stress.
16. Managing Your Blood Sugar Levels
Need to keep your blood sugar levels manageable? Passive stretching may improve how the body manages glucose in the blood stream. In fact, it’s viable as an alternative to extensive exercises for many types of diabetic patients. 6
While you also want to seek the help of a physician if you’re diabetic, stretching for 20 minutes a day has great potential as a treatment.
17. Keeping the House Clean
Thanks to a boost in motivation, stamina, energy and positive mindset, you can get more out of house cleaning. On a side note, doing chores around the house also helps burn a lot of calories if you’re looking to lose some weight.
In fact, house cleaning is one of my favorite activities. Not only does it make the home more presentable, but it’s a great way to elevate the heart rate and work up a sweat.
Don’t think of it as a chore, but more of an exercise.
Static or Dynamic Stretching?
According to various experts, there are two distinct types of stretching: dynamic and static. The biggest difference between the two is simply a matter of how long you hold a stretch.
What is Static Stretching?
Static stretching is when you hold a position for around 30 seconds. It helps the muscles ease out of tension and helps them relax.
It’s typical to do these kinds of stretches after a workout.
For instance, let’s say you did some machine back rows. Doing a full body stretch after the workout helps relax the back.
What is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretches are some of the most common, and you probably do them regularly without really thinking about it. For instance, how often do you stretch your arms when getting out of bed?
These kinds of stretches are not held for extended periods of time. They’re great for a quick release of tension, but often don’t have the same impact as something that is static.
What About Passive and Active Stretches?
Passive stretching is usually done after a workout. Many people will use their body weight or other tools to help relax the muscles. In reality, it’s pretty much the same thing as static stretching only with equipment.
For instance, I’ll often hang from the roof of my garage by my arms for a few seconds and let gravity help stretch my back, shoulders, pecs and biceps.
Active stretching involves something like yoga. It’s often used before, during and after workouts.
Is Yoga a Healthy Form of Stretching?
Although yoga does include some benefits of stretching, it’s not the only reason why people do this activity. Yoga involves increasing flexibility as well as strength conditioning and proper breathing techniques.
Yoga simply has more involved than merely stretching.
But if you want a good workout to prime the muscles, it’s a great place to start.
Can Anyone Do Yoga?
Just about anyone can do yoga in some form. I started doing a few poses during workouts back when I weighed 280+ pounds. While the positions are far more perfected nowadays, it took practice to get to this point.
Of course personal restrictions may prevent some positions. For instance, it may be difficult to strike certain standing poses in the beginning if you have a bad knee.
Starting Your Own Routines
It’s best if you do about five minutes of dynamic stretching before your actual workout. Essentially, this helps add mobility and keeps the muscles from getting too tight.
After your workout, commit to another five minutes or so with static stretching. It’ll help you relax and help prevent the muscles from cramping up.
It’s advisable to do some stretching even on days when you don’t work out. Take a few minutes in the morning when you get out of bed to properly stretch.
And I’m not just talking about the arm-and-yawn thing.
Try to stretch out all the different muscle groups in the body.
When Shouldn’t You Stretch?
While there are many benefits to stretching, sometimes it can be a bad thing. If done incorrectly, you could inadvertently cause injuries to yourself.
For instance, you wouldn’t want to get into a downward dog pose if you recently had back surgery.
If you have a recurring pain, it’s best to see a physician before stretching. It’s possible to make matters worse if you don’t solve the underlying problem of what’s causing the pain.
Best Practices for Stretching
Don’t go overboard when stretching. I have given myself a lot of cramps when trying to stretch too much. Think of stretching as a form of exercise. There is such a thing as doing too much and actually causing damage to yourself.
When stretching, you don’t want to feel discomfort. If you’re in any pain, you’re doing it wrong. The same goes for yoga. If you do stretch and you start to feel discomfort, slowly reduce the stretch until you feel better.
Many experts suggest warming up the muscles before committing to stretches. This is to help them become more malleable. It’s another reason why I suggest dynamic stretching before a workout.
Personally, I’ll go for a short walk before actually stretching prior to a workout.
How Much Weight Can You Lose by Stretching?
Some stretching benefits include weight loss. However, don’t expect to drop several pounds a week doing nothing but yoga. Although the movements do workout various muscle groups, it’s usually not enough to really burn through calories.
However, routine yoga does have potential to boost overall workouts as well as improve muscle definition. This is helpful to lose weight, but requires more than simple stretches in the morning.
If this was the case, anyone who woke up in the morning and stretched would be at their ideal weight.
I find I burn a few calories less per minute while stretching than if I went for a walk around the neighborhood.
On the other hand, yoga does have potential to elevate the heart rate and improve calorie burn. In some instances, I burned about as many calories holding a pose as I would going for a walk.
It’s All About Self-Improvement
Most benefits of stretching include preparing the body for strenuous activity. The more flexible and relaxed you are, the easier many physical activities become. But don’t assume a quick yawn in the morning is going to be enough.
Set aside a few minutes a day for self-improvement through stretching. It may impact your life more than you think.
- UC Davis Health – https://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/sportsmedicine/resources/flexibility_descriprion.html
- Lifehack – https://www.lifehack.org/395885/7-secrets-to-increase-athletic-performance
- NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22130394
- Fitness Magazine – https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/health/injury/back/lower-back-pain-relief-stretches/
- Peak Health Advocate – https://www.peakhealthadvocate.com/753/stretching-shown-to-improve-heart-health/
- NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5667606/