– Why Stretch? Exercise and Flexibility is Important.
This campaign wants to convince you that stretching to improve flexibility and well-being is an extremely important part of overall physical fitness. Anyone who wants to live a healthy lifestyle – whether you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, maintain activeness as you age or even get ‘swole’ – should really consider stretching. It has a wide range of benefits including:
- Wider range of movement
- Improved circulation
- Better co-ordination
- Decreased chance of injury
- Faster recovery
And these are only the physiological benefits. Stretching is such a simple and calm activity that for many it provides a source of mood control and meditation. Stretching for 15 minutes each morning can energize you for the day ahead and conversely, stretching before bed can be relaxing and meditative.
Of course, this is not a new discovery and there are many people who actively incorporate stretching into their daily routine. Whether it is through static stretching, dynamic stretching, the ancient practice of Yoga or the much less ancient Pilates, stretching has proven benefits in many people’s lives.
– How to Stretch? No Pain, Still Gain.
There has been lots of debate about the best methods and techniques of stretching and various studies both supporting and disputing the different facts and myths surrounding it. But I don’t want to get into that just yet. Instead I want to start with these simple rules for static stretching so that you can start right away:
- Don’t stretch too far. You want to be able to feel your muscles stretching and hold that position just before the point of pain.
- Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds. Anything less than this won’t properly stretch the muscle and you won’t improve flexibility.
- Slowly release the stretch. Quickly jumping out of a stretch can cause injury.
- Remember to breathe and smile. Breathing will help further your stretches and carry oxygen to your muscles while stretching your smile is proven to make you feel happier. And you deserve to feel happy because you’re doing something good for yourself by stretching. Good job you!
If you follow these rules you’ll always be stretching safely and efficiently.
– What to Stretch? Head to Toe.
Stretching each muscle group of the body is important for improving flexibility, balance and co-ordination and no muscles should be forgotten or favored. Sometimes people only stretch the areas they feel are tight or sore and this isn’t good because each muscle affects each other. For example, sometimes soreness in the lower back has nothing to do with your hamstrings but is actually due to your hip flexors. Personally I find it best to start at the top with neck stretches and work my way down to my calves.
You can find comprehensive examples of different stretches for each muscle group here.
– When to Stretch? Whenever You Can!
Stretching is a great form of exercise because it can be done in almost any situation and at any time. There is no need for any special facilities or equipment; you can literally do it anywhere. Whether you’re in bed, in the shower, on the bus, watching television, cooking dinner or waiting for a machine at the gym there is nothing stopping you from doing a few stretches. The key is consistency. Doing 10-20 minutes of stretching each day will significantly increase and maintain your flexibility and will provide you with all the benefits mentioned before. Stretching for a short period every day is far more beneficial than stretching for a long period every few days.
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