Stretching Health: Is Stretching Great For Your Health?

Lack of flexibility is now seen to be a major..

Stretching Health: Is Stretching Great For Your Health?

Lack of flexibility is now seen to be a major cause of general health problems and sports injury and is being linked to everything from stress. back pain, and even osteoarthritis.

It also means that nagging injuries, especially around your joints take longer to heal.

Latest studies show that up to 60 percent of the general population with bad backs and knees have tight hamstrings and hips and the main cause is a lack of flexibility.

Active-Isolated Stretching (AI)

Olympians have been employing Active-Isolated Stretching (AI) now for about 10 years, but it has only recently been brought to the public’s attention.

I have used this technique on my clients for quite a while now with great success, while adding renewed life and spring to tired out muscles.

AI stretching prevents injury, as conventional stretching can cause real harm such as muscle pulls and tears.

AI stretching does what stretching is supposed to do; it transports oxygen to sore muscles and quickly removes toxins so recovery is faster.

It also works as a deep massage technique because it activates muscle fibres during the actual stretch.

How to Stretch

Before stretching, dress in loose clothing and try and acquire a five-foot length of rope and tie a loop in the end.

The purpose of this is to loop the end of rope around the exercising appendage to squeeze the last couple of inches of stretch from the exercise.

  • Find a comfortable place to stretch either on your bed, a carpeted floor or on a mat.
  • Isolate the muscle or group you want to stretch then contract the muscle opposite. This causes the isolated muscle or group to relax straight away and when it does it is ready to stretch.
  • Gently and quickly stretch the isolated muscle until it can’t be stretched any further; now give yourself a gentle pull with your hands or rope.
  • Go as far as you can and then hold the stretch for no more than 2 seconds then release, do this for a total of 5 repetitions on the isolated muscle or group.

 

The reason for just a 2-second stretch is because when a muscle realizes that it is being forced into a stretch it contracts to protect itself from being overstretched.

If you can beat this contraction you’ll be well on the way to a greater Range of Motion.

Remember to hold for no more than 2 seconds, release, return to the normal position and repeat for the five repetitions.

Try not to have any hesitations between stretches and make it as fluid as possible.

Try to stretch every day if possible, remember to:

  • Work one target muscle at a time.
  • Contract the muscle that is opposite the targeted muscle, which will relax in preparation of its stretch.
  • Stretch it gently and quickly.
  • Release it before it realizes that it has been stretched and goes into its protective contraction.

 

Below are two exercises that can be done straight away even while you are at work to stretch that tension and stress from of your body.

1. Lie down on the floor with your buttocks against a wall and your legs straight up the wall. Slowly flex your toes towards your knees, hold for two seconds and repeat five times.

This will loosen up your lower back and stretch your hamstrings and hips giving instant relief for tired backs.

This exercise can be done while at the office anytime you start to feel that stress and tension building up.

2. Sitting in a chair and putting one leg out straight, flex your toes towards your knee, now lean towards that foot. 

Stretching your hands towards it and letting your head and shoulders follow, hold for two seconds and repeat five times.

This will create a stretch right across your lower back and neck.

A flexible body is:

  • More efficient
  • More easily trained for strength and endurance
  • Enjoys more range of motion
  • Stays balanced more easily and is less prone to injury
  • Recovers from workouts more quickly, and feels better.

 

Here are the top 10 health benefits of stretching:

Encourages an optimistic outlook

A buildup of stress causes your muscles to contract, making you feel tense and uneasy. This tension can lead to having a negative impact on mind as well as your body.

Stretching exercises have powerful stress-busting abilities. Soon after waking up can help jump-start the mind and body.

Stretching loosens tight muscles which helps your muscles both relax and increase blood flow.

It also encourages the release of endorphins, providing a sense of tranquility and euphoria.

Stretching directly before bed will even give you a more comfortable sleeping experience.

Fortifies posture

Stretching helps ensure correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position and keeping your muscles loose.

Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture by relieving aches and pains.

With reduced pain, there is a reduced desire to hunch or slouch.

Enables flexibility

The most established and obvious benefit of stretching is improving flexibility and range of motion.

An effective flexibility training program can improve your physical performance and help reduce your risk of injury.

By improving your range of motion. 

Your body requires less energy to make the same movements and you also will have more flexible joints thus lessening the likelihood of injuries acquired during workouts or during daily activities.

Increase stamina

Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow.

The longer you exercise the more energy you be burn, typically causing one to grow fatigued.

With stretching, you can delay the onset of muscle fatigue by ensuring oxygen is efficiently flowing through your blood, thereby increasing your endurance.

Decreases risk of injury

It will help to supply a greater nutrient supply to muscles, thereby reducing muscle soreness and helping to speed recovery from muscle and joint injuries.

Improve energy levels

Sometimes you may have trouble staying awake during your long, dragging day.

If you’re feeling this way then it might help to get out of your seat and do a few good stretches for a boost of energy, helping your mind and body be more alert.

Muscles tighten when we get tired and that makes us feel even more lethargic, so feel free to stand up and do some stretches.

It will help you to quickly and efficiently revitalize your energy levels.

Promotes blood circulation

It increases blood flow to the muscles.

Not only will this help reduce post-workout soreness and shorten recovery time, but it will improve overall health.

Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function.

The heart rate will also lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard and blood pressure will become more even and consistent.

Improve athletic performance

If your muscles are already contracted because you haven’t stretched, then they will be less effective during exercise.

Regular stretching will relax all of your muscles and therefore enable them to be more available during exercise.

Reduced soreness

Stretching before and after a workout gives your muscles time to relax.

Increases in blood flow increase nutrient supply to the muscles and relieve soreness in the muscles after a workout.

Reduces cholesterol

Paired with a healthy diet, engaging in prolonged stretching exercises can help reduce cholesterol in the body.

This could prevent and even reverse the hardening of arteries, helping one avoid heart diseases.


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Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT

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