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Stretching – Why It Is Important, Types, & Benefits

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What Is Stretching?

It’s not enough to build muscle and achieve aerobic fitness. You need to think about flexibility, too, for which stretching is incredibly important. But when you are running low on time, stretching can sometimes take a backseat, and you may be tempted to skip it.

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You may think of stretching as something performed only by runners or gymnasts. But we all need to stretch in order to protect our mobility and independence. A lot of people don’t understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should happen daily, just like we eat daily.

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WHY IS STRETCHING IMPORTANT

Stretching at the end of your workout can help boost your flexibility, reduce the risk of injury, and decrease muscle tension in your body. Keeping the muscles strong and healthy. 

It can even help improve your performance the next time you workout. Also, we need the flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight putting you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage that eventually affects the body’s posture.

For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings (in the back of the thigh). That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which inhibits walking. 

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Likewise, when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as running, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched. 

Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STATIC AND DYNAMIC STRETCHING

Static Stretches

Static stretching involves stretches that you hold in place for a period of time, usually 20 to 60 seconds. In other words, you don’t move while you’re stretching a particular muscle or group of muscles. 

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Static stretching is typically done at the end of your workout, once your muscles are warm and relaxed. It is used to correct muscle imbalances. 

Active Or Dynamic Stretches

On the other hand, Dynamic stretching involves active movements, like moving your arms or legs through a full range of motion. In this process, agonists(primary muscle) and synergists(secondary or supporting muscles) are used to dynamically move the joint into the range of motion.

These stretches are usually done before you start a workout routine to help warm up your muscles and get your heart rate up. For instance, a runner may jog in place or pump their legs before starting a race.

BENEFITS OF STRETCHING

#1. Greater flexibility and range of motion:

Stretching can help increase the flexibility of your joints which in return helps you move around more easily, and it can also improve the range of motion in your joints(Range of motion is how far you can move a joint in a normal direction before it stops)

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#2. Better posture and less back pain: 

Better posture and less back pain - Stretching - Why It Is Important, Types, & Benefits

Tight, tense muscles can lead to poor posture. When you sit or stand incorrectly, you often put extra pressure and strain on your muscles. This, in turn, can lead to back pain and other types of musculoskeletal pain. 

According to a 2015 study, combining a strength training routine with stretching exercises can help ease back and shoulder pain. It may also encourage proper alignment, which may help improve your posture. Stretching your muscles regularly may also help existing back injuries, and lower your risk for back injuries in the future.

#3. Improves respiratory and circulatory efficiency:

Good posture leads to the decreased workload on the muscles which in turn helps the respiratory muscles to work efficiently.

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#4. Less muscle tension and lower stress:

Stress is a part of our everyday lives. But sometimes, it can feel overwhelming. High levels of stress can cause your muscles to tense up, which can make you feel as if you’re carrying stress in your body.

Stretching muscles that feel tense and tight can help relax them. In turn, this may help lower your stress levels and help you feel calmer.

#5. Improved blood flow:

According to a 2018 study, daily stretching can help improve your circulation. Increased blood flow to your muscles can help them heal more quickly after a workout. Better blood flow may also help prevent muscle soreness and stiffness after a workout (DOMS).

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  1. Don’t stretch to the point of pain. The ideology of No Pain, No Gain does not hold true in the case of stretching. You should feel mild tension as you stretch your muscles, never pain. If you feel pain, stop right away.
  2. Watch your posture. Pay attention to your posture with each stretch. Keep your chin up, spine straight, core engaged, and your shoulders aligned with your hips.
  3. Breathe throughout your stretches. Not only will breathing help you relieve stress and tension in your muscles, but it may also improve the quality of your stretches and help you hold a stretch for longer.
  4. Start slowly. Don’t try to do too much the first time you stretch after a workout. Start with just a few stretches, and add more repetitions and stretches as you get used to them.
  5. Try to do stretches on a yoga mat to avoid injury. Below I have given a link to the yoga mat if you are inspired, you can buy from there⤵️

For India

VIFITKIT Non Slip Yoga Mat with Shoulder Strap and Carrying Bag – 10mm (colors available)

Brandvilla Non Slip Yoga Mat with Shoulder Strap and Carrying Bag – 8mm (colors available)

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For Outside India

BalanceFrom GoYoga+ All-Purpose 1/2-Inch Extra Thick High Density Anti-Tear Exercise Yoga Mat (colors available)

AmazonBasics 1/2-Inch Extra Thick Exercise Yoga Mat (colors available)

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WHERE TO START

With a body full of muscles, the idea of daily stretching may seem terrifying. Stretching after a workout doesn’t have to take long, and you can find shortcuts by stretching several muscle groups at once. 

The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis, and quadriceps in the front of the thigh.

“Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial. Aim for a program of daily stretches or at least three or four times per week.

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Stretching after working out can help you reap many rewards. When you stretch your muscles after a workout, you’re helping to give your body a jump-start on recovery, while also releasing stress and tension.

Furthermore, you are boosting the flexibility of your joints. If you’re unsure about how to stretch safely, ask a certified personal trainer to show you how. Protein, carbs, and fats, their function, how much you should take according to your lifestyle/goal, and many more.

That’s it for this article. I hope you found this article helpful. Thank you for reading.

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Mudra Narkhede
Mudra Narkhede is certified Yoga Instructor. Third year physiotherapy student and also a Badminton player.
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