By: Coco Ang, PT
While many of us may be conditioned to thinking that a fit and active lifestyle requires hours in the gym and extensive meal prep, the truth is far from this common misconception. Simple acts, such as stretching, can also contribute to a fit lifestyle—and no; stretching is not just limited to those who are more athletic in their endeavours and lifestyle.
Stretching is one of the easiest ways to keep the muscles strong, flexible and healthy, according to an article published by Harvard Health Publishing. For athletes, of course, stretching gives the added benefits in terms of flexibility training and is an essential component of their fitness.
There is vast literature available on the benefits of various types of stretching, which include:
- Static stretches; a stretch held in a challenging but comfortable position for 10–30 seconds
- Dynamic stretches; a type of stretching based on movement and does not require the muscle to be held
- Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF); takes advantage of muscles ability to stretch further following a sustained contraction
Here are a few key benefits of stretching:
Regularly stretching can help combat symptoms of chronic stress. Chronic stress may pave the path for many undesirable bodily responses, such as anxiety, tension and fatigue. With a combination of deep-breathing exercises, stretching can prove to be beneficial in alleviating mental tension.
Stiff and painful muscles lead to discomfort throughout the body. Much literature has indicated the benefits of static stretching in the reduction of muscle stiffness, reducing chronic lower back and neck pain as well as a visible reduction in the severity and frequency of muscle cramping.
A combination of static and PNF stretching and yoga can result in decreased symptoms of high-blood pressure, increased heart and breathing rates. It is important to note here that these conditions stem from the body’s physiological responses to muscle tension and stress.
Improved Range of Motion
Stretching works to ease the tension between your muscles and joints and enhances your range of motion by allowing for more movement in the major joints such as the hips and shoulders.
Reducing Risk of Injury
All athletes are recommended to perform pre and post-workout stretching, which can substantially decrease the risk of injury. Dynamic stretches, in particular, help the body warm-up, thereby increasing the flexibility and range of motion and hence helping prevent injuries from intense physical activities, such as athletic training.
Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute clinics are greater Toronto area based sports medicine, physiotherapy and massage therapy clinics that offer a wide range of services such as stem cell transplant, sports medicine physicians, sports podiatry and acupuncture, among others.