Have you ever noticed that blissful look on your pet Dog or Cat’s face as they take a big long stretch after yet another nap.
I’m pretty sure that’s the face I pull during Yoga!
We all know stretching feels soooo good.
That doesn’t mean we do it as much as we could though, to really reap its benefits.
We tend to prioritize our exercise routine and exclude the stretching.
But stretching really is just as important.
Stretching supports muscle health.
By increasing blood flow and relaxing the muscles, it can start to repair the minor tears that exercise causes.
The relaxation of tight muscles reduces strain on the joints.
Which not only aids and improves posture, but also gives us freedom of movement and helps reduce pain.
If you are an avid exerciser it helps prevent injury and will better sport performance.
Our bodies are so efficient. They will lengthen and shorten muscles accordingly to match the movements we do the most frequently.
So whether you’re sat at a desk all day, or running ultra marathons your body will need to stretch those muscles used in these activities.
Healthy muscles and joints help the circulatory system too.
Working muscles engorge with blood to get their component parts for fuel. Stretching helps to dissipate the blood flow back through and around the body easily.
There is a mental release with stretching.
We know that stress causes muscle tension.
Static slow stretching triggers the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) helping us de stress and become more relaxed.
Especially when you apply slow deep belly breathing with it too.
One of the less talked about benefits of stretching is how it helps you get to know your body better.
It always amazes me the amount of people that can’t identify where they feel muscles working.
If you take the time daily to tune into how your body feels, and stretch where you feel tight you will get much better results.
It is safe to stretch everyday.
However I wouldn’t recommend it as the first activity you do when you get out of bed. The muscles are cold.
It’s better after some movement, when muscles are warmer and more pliable; they are elastic tissue after all.
Your body will be dehydrated when you wake from a night’s sleep, its good to get some water in first.
It’s especially helpful for the spinal discs, which are mainly fluid and particularly affected by overnight dehydration.
The ACSM (America college of sports medicine) guidelines for flexibility state: “Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion. Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds, to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch”
My personal recommendation is to stretch in a way that feels good for you, making sure you hold your stretch for a minimum of 10 seconds.
Work your way through your body, especially the big muscle areas like thighs (front and behind) shoulders, back and chest.
This could take no longer than 5 minutes per day.
If you’re less pushed for time you could try a stretch class or yoga.
But I guarantee give it a few days and you will most certainly be feeling the benefit. You may even be pulling that satisfied pet face too.