We all remember back in physical education class when the teacher made us role our shoulders back, touch our toes, and even do a few jumping jacks in place. These warm up and stretching exercises allowed us to participate in various physical activities with a reduced chance of injury.
Today, we as adults often overlook the important role of stretching and warm up in our exercise routine. Our lives are so jammed packed with things to do and places we need to get to that actually taking the time to do some stretching exercises seem like an inefficient waste of time. However, for your exercise routine to be the most effective that it can be, stretching needs to be an integral part of the program. Here are a few reasons why.
Reason # 1: Your Circulation Will Improve
Your exercise routine can only be effective if the muscles being used are adequately fed with nutrients found in the blood stream, and if waste products are quickly removed. To accomplish this, your blood circulation needs to be functioning at optimum levels. Proper stretching can help to increase the overall blood flow by relaxing the muscles, warming them up and prevent restriction of the blood flow through the circulation system. The trick is to take your time and do the stretching exercises properly.
Reason # 2: Increase of Flexibility
This is perhaps one of the most cited reasons why stretching should be a part of your daily routine. Perhaps you have watched professional athletes leap through the air to catch a football, or perform a double handspring into a split on the floor exercises at a gymnastic composition. In reality, the only way that those players have the flexibility to accomplish those feats is through regular stretching exercises.
Stretching increases flexibility in two basic ways. First, it promotes a wider range of motion in your joints, such as wrists, ankles, hips and shoulders. Second, proper stretching allows your muscle fibers to actually lengthen over time, which will extend their reach. This combination of overall muscle extension and increased range of motion will increase your overall flexibility.
Reason # 3: Stretching Can Help With Pain
Sooner or later if you live an active life, injury will happen. If it is serious enough to warrant medical care, often your physical therapist will assign you certain stretching exercises to help with the healing process. When they are done correctly, and I can’t stress that enough, stretching exercises can be a fantastic way to both help heal an injury and alleviate some of the pain involved.
Stretching may be able to alleviate pain by increasing the circulation to the muscles, and thereby removing toxins and other waste products that contribute to muscle soreness. Of course, when you have an injury, it is best to only do stretching under close supervision by a medical professional. There are some instances, such as a dislocated joint, or torn muscles where stretching too soon can be detrimental.
Reason # 4: Stretching Can Change Your Mood
Think back to the last time you did a really satisfying exercise session. At the end of the exercises you felt energized, confident, and ready to take on the world. But do you remember how you felt at the beginning? Unless you were looking forward to doing the exercise routine that day, there is a chance that you weren’t very enthusiastic. Perhaps you were a little sore, and your mental state needed a little pick me up. Then you started to stretch and exercise, and you found your overall mood lifting.
Why? In all honesty, the stress was still there in your life. Deadlines still had to be met, and crisis after crisis still had to be diverted. The reason why stretching and the subsequent exercise routine helped your mood is because together they increase the production of certain brain chemicals, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and endorphins in your brain, which in turn are utilized to help regulate your overall mood.
Reason # 5: It’s good for Your Heart
According to a study conducted by the American Physiological Society earlier this year, the ability for men and women over the age of forty to touch their toes could be considered an indication of how much their arteries had hardened over time. The easier time they had reaching out to their toes, the less likely that they were suffering from stiffening of their arteries. Exercise in general has long been viewed as a way to help keep the blood flowing smoothly, and the heart pumping regularly. The added benefit of stretching can only help matters.
These are just a few of the reasons why stretching correctly can be a beneficial and necessary part of your exercise routine. So please consider taking the time to add some proper warm-up, stretching and cool down exercises to your overall system for good health.