Stretching at every age is very important for our overall health. From newborn to 90 years of age, our bodies need to stretch and are designed for it. Our muscles, ligaments and joints work together so that our limbs and our spine can elongate and allow movement to occur with ease. When we stretch regularly our flexibility improves. The range of motion of joints increases which translates to decreased risk of injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments. Properly stretched muscles are relaxed muscles. When we are engaged in intense exercise, our overall performance improves and we get more out of our workout.
Stretching also increases blood flow to cartilage which does not have its own blood supply. Cartilage relies on the accessory flow to muscles for nourishment and healing. When our muscles, ligaments and joints are properly stretched we are less prone to pain with movement. Then we have more energy to do the things we love.
I am a huge advocate for regular stretching and I encourage everyone to make it an equally important part of any exercise program. Regular exercise does wonders for our well-being by improving our cardiovascular health. Keeping our muscles and bones strong and improving our mental wellness. However, an exercise program that does not include stretching will only provide half the health benefits.
Most of us are spending more and more time sitting, whether it’s at a desk all day or in a car commuting to and from work, and it’s placing more and more pressure on our muscles to stay shortened for longer periods of time. Combine that with life’s other stressors and we have the perfect recipe for chronically tight muscles. Many people will then report that the strain or pain in their lower back or hamstrings appeared suddenly, however, there is no doubt the problem had been festering for some time, it was just being ignored and could have been avoided with a few specific stretches.
Many of the benefits of stretching are obvious however, there are other very important benefits to stretching that will get you geared up and ready to feel taller, more flexible and HAPPY. Stretching will increase blood flow to muscles and improve circulation and this increase in blood flow will release endorphins in the brain that will elicit feelings of tranquillity and euphoria. Stretching has also been shown to release dopamine into the brain which functions to make you feel happy and more positive. Not sure about you, but stretching in order to feel happy and euphoric doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
When we stretch our entire body we discover which areas or muscles require the most attention, so knowing what muscles are tighter than others allows us to focus on them so we can avoid injury. I like to start by stretching the thoracic spine first (that being the mid back) because it is where our ‘sympathetic nervous system’ starts. This system is known for its ‘fight or flight’ response, so stretching the muscles of the thoracic spine can have a calming effect on the sympathetic nerves. If you get into the habit of doing this stretch at night it may help you sleep better and longer and you will wake up feeling refreshed.
I think you’ve got the point that stretching is important and should be done daily. Below are a few important facts about how to stretch properly.
- Stretching should be smooth and fluid without any bouncing involved. If you bounce while stretching you may injure the muscle you are trying to stretch.
- Find and practice stretches that are specific to your sport. This will ensure that your muscles are ready for the demands of your favourite activity.
- Be careful not to feel pain while performing a stretch. When you feel the tension in the muscle that is the point to hold the and not push any further.
- Remember that you must stretch regularly to reap the benefits. Be committed and watch your health and body and improve.
- Stretch immediately following a workout. Your muscles are already warm and you will likely have less post-workout pain.
Find the joy in stretching regularly. Your body will thank you by feeling loose, limber and relaxed so that you can enjoy life to the fullest.
About the Author
Dr. Claudia Machiella owns and operates one of the GTA’s leading chiropractic clinics. Since 2001 Dr. Claudia Machiella has grown and built her practice and has been a Chiropractic advocate in her community. Most recently she has opened a second location in Vaughan in order to provide increased accessibility to chiropractic so that more people […]Read Bio Read Posts