We all know that exercise can play a significant role in healthy ageing and supporting a full and active life, but how often do we think of “stretching” when it comes to our exercise regime?
Stretching not only helps improve flexibility, but it also contributes significantly to better posture, combating aches and pains, and helps improve recovery.
Below, we outline some of our favourite benefits of stretching below.
Stretching moves tense muscles making them more flexible in the process. Regular stretching becomes easier over time resulting in increased general flexibility. Improved flexibility can not only help in terms of carrying out everyday tasks and activities with relative ease but can also help delay reduced mobility symptoms that sometimes accompany the ageing process.
Stretching lengthens and strengthens taut muscles, encouraging and enabling proper alignment of the body, particularly the spine.
Improved posture can in turn reduce musculoskeletal pain, especially in the back and neck. When pain is minimalised, you immediately slouch less which can give you a real and unexpected confidence boost too.
3. Injury Prevention
Preparing your body and muscles for any form of exercise and maintaining a full range of motion through all your joints is a sure way to promote better balance and keep your muscles working efficiently. When muscles have been warmed up and then stretched movement becomes much easier. The ensuant improved coordination and balance will help general mobility and make you less prone to injuries from falls especially as you age. It’s where a good old stretch as you wake up can get your day off to a really good start – and kick start your metabolism too.
4. Tension Release
Stretching is a highly effective means of stress management. Muscles can tighten and contract when we feel under pressure and are stressed. Stretching lessens that tautness in the muscles, increases blood flow and helps us to destress and relax. Research shows that stretching also results in the release of feel good endorphins, a natural body substance that helps attain feelings of wellbeing and contentment. Believe it or not, a good old stretch just before bed can help release tension and promote a good night’s sleep too.
5. Increased Energy
Stretching facilitates and increases blood and nutrient flow through the body. This in turn impacts positively on our energy levels leaving us refreshed and energised for whatever comes next. If you’re tired by mid-afternoon, try taking a “stretch break” and observe the effect. Just a few minutes will get your blood pounding throughout your entire body, including the brain, loosen tense muscles and will swiftly counteract that after lunch “slump”.
6. Improved Mobility and Pain Reduction
As we get older, we can all be prone to aching joints and stiff muscles. Developing a regular stretch routine can significantly reduce these forms of discomfort whilst improving mobility too. It is important however to practise the right sorts of stretches if pain reduction and improved mobility are our motive. Ideal in this respect are range of motion exercises (i.e. exercises which keep muscles and joints moving through their full range) such as wrist bends, shoulder shrugs and knee lifts.
7. Therapeutic Effect
Stretching can be a time to recharge and refresh blood flow to the body, giving the mind a much needed mental break and restoring a calmer, more peaceful mind-set to the day. Try focusing on mindfulness and meditation exercises whilst stretching and look upon your stretch routine as a chance for a bit of relaxation and “Me” time.
If you have any experience of yoga, try and implement some of the breathing techniques you know as you stretch: Inhale deeply into the stretch and exhale slowly as you relax out of it. Repeat the stretch or stretches, continuing to breathe at the same slow rate throughout. Slow, controlled, mindful stretches are a great way to “declutter” your head as you are focussed entirely on stretching and breathing.
We hope the above has given you some insight into a number of the benefits to be accrued from stretching. As with all forms of exercise however, do proceed with caution and remember that a stretch should never be forced or painful. If it is, you are doing it wrongly and you risk causing yourself injury. Practised correctly, stretching is however an important exercise to add to any daily routine, can lead to improved general health and wellbeing and is undoubtedly of benefit to all ages.
So why not give a go today and see what you think.