Many people think stretching is a waste of time or should only be done sparingly. However, the evidence would suggest otherwise. Here’s why it’s important:
The Importance of Stretching
Here’s why you need to incorporate stretching into your daily routine:
According to physical therapist David Nolan, who works at the Massachusetts General Hospital of the Harvard Medical School, people should stretch every day.
Because as well as keeping your muscles healthy and strong, stretching also keeps them flexible enough to maintain a range of motion. However, far too often, people underestimate the importance of stretching or just forget to include it in their daily routine.
Why is stretching important?
1. Promotes better blood circulation
The Mayo Clinic, a US-based non-profit medical centre, states that stretching can improve your blood circulation, which can reduce muscle recovery time and minimise aches and pains.
2. Improves your athletic performance
Research published in the US National Library of Medicine also found a strong association between dynamic stretching and improved muscle flexibility and performance, attributing the improved range of motion to reduced stiffness.
3. Helps reduce your stress levels
It's well known that mental stress can have numerous physical symptoms, one of the most obvious of which is muscle tension. Stretching helps your nervous system by stimulating receptors that reduce stress hormones. In fact, a research trial that studies nurses also revealed that meditation and stretching could reduce stress hormone production and symptoms of post-traumatic disorder.
4. You can improve your posture
By boosting your flexibility and preventing muscle tightness, you can also improve your posture and minimise aches and pain in your back.
The best time to stretch
There’s still a lot of debate about whether you should stretch before before and/or after a workout.
First thing’s first - don’t stretch cold muscles
According to Tina Vindum, the founder and president of the American outdoor exercise programme Outdoor Fitness, you should never stretch a cold muscle – so stretching before a workout isn’t a good idea. Instead, do a warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes before stretching to get your heart rate up.
This is reaffirmed by research published on the NHS website which found that stretching before exercises can make muscles weaker and slower and is 'detrimental' to most performances, according to sports medicine clinician and researcher Dr Ian Shrier. Therefore, it's a good idea to spend at least five or ten minutes on a treadmill or exercise bike (or another warm-up exercise) before stretching.
Why is it important to stretch after a workout?
Vindum also strongly recommends stretching major muscle groups after your workout, when they'll be warm and pliable. Stretching exercises like yoga and pilates can be particularly beneficial, as they can reduce your heart rate so your body resumes to a normal resting state.