“I’m just not that flexible” - it’s a sentence that many people who have stiff and tense bodies proclaim, and I normally follow it up with the question, “How often do you stretch?”
If stretching is a big part of your routine, then you’re doing your body a favour by helping it regain and maintain its natural flexibility. But if it is not, then it makes sense that you do not feel flexible at all.
While you may not feel the effects immediately, neglecting your body’s natural desire to stretch out can cause a whole range of ailments, which could easily be avoided if you just set aside a few minutes to stretch each day.
So why should I stretch, exactly?
Stretching helps to increase your flexibility. When we say flexibility, we are actually referring to the range of motion (the distance and direction you can move) of your joints and the mobility (the ability to move without restriction) of your muscles. The more you stretch, the better range of motion and mobility that you will have.
In saying that, flexibility isn’t just about improving the way you move. The benefits go much deeper than that to enhance your overall wellbeing.
1. Stretching makes every day easier
These days, many people suffer from aches and pains contracted from our modern lifestyles. Over time, these effects can compound, making simple actions like getting out of bed, picking objects off the floor or lifting a baby a chore. Stretching however, can be a non-invasive way to prevent (and in some cases, get rid of) soreness and pain, while helping you to perform everyday movements with ease.
2. Stretching increases your athletic performance
Having flexible joints and muscles can help you to improve your athletic performance in several different ways. Firstly, when your joints and muscles are flexible, you use less energy while in motion, which then improves your overall performance. Secondly, stretching can help you to decrease the risk of activity-based injuries and reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
Consequently, stretching should accompany each and every one of your workouts. Contrary to popular belief, you should start your workouts with dynamic stretching and end them with static stretching.
3. Stretching increases your blood flow
In order to stabilise your blood sugar levels, you need to keep active. This can be difficult to achieve if you work an office job and spend most of your time sitting at a desk. Performing five minutes of stretching every hour will give your body the movement it needs while keeping your blood sugar levels in check.
4. Stretching helps to relieve stress
When you are stressed out, tension builds up in your muscles. Rather than letting it build up over time, release it and bring your mind to a state of calmness with some stretches. And if you lead a particularly stressful life, consider taking up yoga. Done correctly, stretching can also bliss you out.
Make stretching a daily habit
Stretching should be an integral part of your everyday. Whether you do yoga, integrate it into your workouts or just get up and out of your seat to stretch every now and then, the main thing is that you do it. Add it into your daily routine and feel the benefits for yourself. Your body’s flexibility, and ultimately health, depends on it!