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The Importance of Stretching & 8 Benefits of Stretching

When was the last time you stretched? Whether your ultimate goal is to do the splits or just to build up your range of motion, stretching is important for good health. Stretching provides a wide variety of benefits for lasting health and fitness for people of all activity levels.

Types of Stretching: Static & Dynamic

There are two main types of stretches: static and dynamic. Static stretching involves stretching and holding the position for 15 to 30 seconds; this type of stretch helps improve flexibility. Dynamic stretching is a movement-based stretch, in that it does not involve holding the position. A number of subtypes of stretches combine static stretches, dynamic stretches, and other motions.

To maximize the benefits of stretching, you need to perform the right kinds of stretching to achieve your goals. Research shows that static stretching may be beneficial for improving range of motion, which is the ability of a joint to go through its complete spectrum of motion, but it may cause you to lose some strength. Dynamic stretching is also good for ROM, but it does not cause loss of strength. In fact, performing dynamic stretches just before exercising can improve strength along with running and jumping abilities.

8 Benefits of Stretching

Stretching can improve your balance

A 2012 study found that stretching could improve balance. Researchers enrolled 42 college students into the study, and assigned them to one of two groups: participants in one group stretched for a half hour and the subjects in the other group sat quietly for 30 minutes. Next, the participants stepped on a stabilometer, which is a contraption in which a platform tilts to the left and right. Those who stretched were able to stand on the stabilometer longer than could those who did not stretch. The researchers concluded that stretching improved fine-muscle coordination, which helped the stretchers adjust their balance and avoid tumbles.

Regular stretching can relieve stiff muscles and joints

Inflexibility can make it hard to do the simple things in life, such as raising your arms above your head or turning your head while backing up your car. Stretching can help you move around better and with less pain. Research shows that stretching can improve range of motion.

Increases blood flow to your muscles

Stretching regularly may improve your circulation to increase blood flow to your muscles. Improved circulation can shorten your recovery time and decrease muscle soreness. In a 2013 study, researchers followed 32 patients undergoing rehabilitation while recovering from heart attacks; they found that stretching improved heart function and circulation.

Improves your posture

Hunching over while sitting or standing can cause soreness in the muscles in your neck, back, core, and abdomen. Poor posture can also reduce blood supply to these areas and lead to stiffness and weakness. Research shows that a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises targeting specific muscle groups helps reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment that, in turn, can improve your posture.

Helps to heal and prevent back pain

Tight muscles can significantly reduce range of motion, which increases your risk for muscle strain. Stretching improves range of motion to decrease this risk for injury.

Relieves stress

Muscle tension is the body’s response to stress. In fact, the American Psychological Association says that muscle tension is the body’s way of protecting itself against injury and pain. When something stressful happens suddenly, your muscles tense up all at once; when the situation becomes less stressful, your muscles relax. Muscles that stay tense all of the time can lead to headaches, musculoskeletal pain in your shoulders, neck, and lower back. Stretching can release muscle tension and reduce stress by lengthening your muscles. For best results, focus on the areas of your body where you tend to experience muscle tension, such as your neck, shoulders, and back.

Stretching can calm your mind

Stretching and other exercise causes your body to produce endorphins, which are “feel good” chemicals that relieve stress and pain. You can optimize the effect by focusing on mindfulness or by practicing meditation as you stretch.

Lower your blood sugar

High blood sugar is a serious problem for millions of people who have diabetes, and for people who are at high risk for developing the condition. The good news is that stretching can reduce high blood sugar after meals. In a study of people who had diabetes or an increased risk of diabetes, researchers found that those who stretched for 40 minutes had lower blood sugar than did those who did not stretch.

To reap the rewards of stretching, you have to engage in stretching exercises regularly, but sometimes pain can make it difficult to stretch. If you have pain that interferes with your ability to stretch comfortably, laser therapy can help. Laser therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBMT), can stop pain at its source. PBMT can also ease pain by regenerating nerves, accelerating tissue repair and cell growth, speed wound healing, preventing overuse injuries, and more.

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