Benefits of Regular stretching
Not many people consider stretching to be a form of exercise. Probably because it's something we do a lot without apparent effort, unlike strength training or aerobics. However, this relatively gentle form of exercise can keep you stay healthy and fit and is good for both your body and mind. Check out these amazing benefits of stretching every day.
1. Stretching increases flexibility
Sports trainers have always insisted that athletes give much importance to stretching both before and after training sessions. That's because stretching increases the flexibility of the body and reduces injuries in the field. Cats know that it's not nine lives that help them land on their feet but their great flexibility. And how do they keep their body flexible but by stretching it every now and then in between their long siestas. In fact, you'll see all animals stretching at one time or another during the day.
2. Regular stretching keeps your back safe
Back problems can be triggered by lifting heavy objects or by sudden twisting movements especially in those who have not been maintaining the flexibility of their spine with sufficient stretching activities. Lack of exercise can make the cartilage tissue stiff and inflexible. When that happens sudden twisting and straining can cause tears in the cartilage. Sitting for long hours without stretching makes the spine stiff and cause backache. Tight hamstrings can also cause lower back pain. Stretching exercises involving bending and rotational movements help strengthen the core muscles surrounding the spine and keep the discs flexible.
3. Stretching improves mental health
People who do stretching exercises regularly report improvement in sleep quality, mood, and self-esteem. Don't dismiss it as subjective data because there are plenty of sound scientific reasons to support their claim. For one, stretching triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter associated with positive feelings and good sleep. Dopamine can improve attention, learning, and memory too.
4. Stretching exercises help lower blood sugar levels
Stretching definitely makes you feel more comfortable, but the number one reason to stretch actually comes from an exciting new study which has found it reduces blood sugar levels. You might already know that intense exercise increases insulin production and the utilization of hormone to push glucose from the blood into tissues. Contrary to expectations, a 30-second stretch and hold routine has been found to be just as effective in lowering glucose levels in the blood. Surprisingly, the effect doesn't come from increased insulin production but from capillaries in the muscle tissues opening up, facilitating the movement of glucose into the cells.
5. Stretching helps reduce high blood pressure and its ill effects
Blood pressure is the force exerted on the arteries as the blood gets pumped through them. There may be several reasons such as obesity, diabetes, mineral imbalances and stress hormones that may elevate a person's blood pressure above the normal of 120/80. Increased pressure on the arterial walls damages them and makes them stiffer. But stretching can counteract the artery stiffening effect of hypertension and protect you from many life-threatening conditions associated with high blood pressure, including atherosclerosis, kidney failure, and heart disease. Stretching should be ideally done at an easy pace, accompanied by correct breathing techniques. A stretched position should be held for a minimum of 20-30 seconds to derive optimum results.
Yoga and Pilates can be good stretching routines but make sure that you involve all muscle groups, repeating it 4-5 times a week.
Ps Stretching tip - Dont stretch with cold muscles. It is best to warm up your muscles before stretching with a hot bath or 10 - 20 minutes spinning the legs on an exercise bike or 15 - 20 minutes fast walking on a treadmill. This will pump more blood to the muscles and allow you to stretch further with less pain/discomfort and help you achieve better flexibility results in no time
Here are some great books and videos below on how to stretch correctly for the maximum benefit and they also have workshops you can attend