Looking to find out why stretching is good for you? I’ll give you at least 5 good reasons why you should start stretching right now!
Over the years I’ve heard many contradicting claims about stretching and stretching-related activities, like Yoga for example. Most athletes I’ve come to know are in favor of it, claiming things like “regular stretching will help prevent injuries”, which I tend to agree on.
But I have heard the occasional objection, with some saying things like “I don’t stretch because I’ll be more likely to get injured” and other thoughts along those lines.
That all being said, who are you to believe in the end? Is stretching good or bad for you?
Honestly, it’s far better to stretch regularly than it is to not stretch at all. I think it’s foolish to write-off stretching as a bad thing, when in most cases it’s only going to do good for you. However, there’s some circumstances where it’s more optimal to not stretch, or at least hold off for a bit. I”ll be sure to mention those along the way.
So, without any further waiting, let’s dive right into why stretching is a good thing for you!
1. Increases Flexibility And Strength
I would like to start this off with a small thought experiment:
So you reach into the bag, grab a balloon, and start blowing away. Oh my God, the balloon is tough like jerky and not expanding at all! That must mean you have to blow harder, or so you think, and you do just that. After several moments of exhausting effort (and your skin has changed color drastically) you decide to take a break.
Your friend (an aspiring Yoga student) comes over and takes out a balloon as well. But, before attempting to inflate the balloon, she holds it in both hands and starts to stretch it out for a moment. Then after sufficient stretching, she holds it up and let’s her lungs do the rest of the work.
To your surprise, the balloon is blown up in seconds! And with so little effort too, but why? Because the material is now warmed up and stretched out, ready to be expanded and worked much further. Think of your body like that balloon.
But now, a quick story if I may..
The Human Body Is More Like An Elastic Than You Think
Bold words, I know, but take it from someone that has suffered multiple injuries thanks to not stretching enough. The latest and worst happened a couple years ago where I developed a nasty back injury while I was in college. I thought it was simply a result of lifting some equipment the wrong way, but that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I developed Pirifomis Syndrome, and I was in pain 24 hours a day, and could only sleep 2-4 hours a day at best.
The physiotherapist that I was seeing each week determined the injury resulted from things like poor posture and not enough stretching to coincide with all the physical labour I was performing. I was going from zero to sixty most days, sitting at a desk all day and then jumping right into the shop to lug heavy parts around and work on vehicles. And then I’d usually home and resume inactivity, like studying or sleeping.
Want to know what fixed it? I started doing a short Yoga-like stretching routine a few times a day, every day. It caused the muscles and tendons to stretch back out over time and regain flexibility. Ultimately my nerves became unclinched by the seizing muscles, and pain began to subside.
Now I stretch all the time, and tell others to as well! The additional flexibility gives you a larger range of motion and allows you to generate more power in the muscles as well. So get to stretching already!
2. Reduces Physical and Mental Stress
Have you ever tried to stand up with your legs straight, and reach down to touch your toes? If your flexibility is shot, it might feel like a completely miserable experience. Pain will start to rise in the stiff muscles throughout your back and legs, and likely you’ll give up before your palms can rest flat on the floor.
Depending on what you do throughout the day, that might not matter to you much. But if you need that level of flexibility day in and day out, you will want to get stretching!
By increasing your flexibility, you increase your range of motion too. This means you can bend and twist further without hitting that pain threshold because your muscles and ligaments won’t be reaching their maximum range as easily.
Physical Pain Causes Mental Stress
Did you know that already? Congrats if you did! It’s not what I call a secret necessarilly, but it is something that a lot of people don’t know. By reducing physical pain in your day-to-day life, you’ll be able to give your mind a break too. Mental stress shortens our life span and subjects us to things like high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Stretch to reduce physical pain, which reduces mental stress, ultimately helping us live longer, healthier lives.
3. Warms Up The Muscles Before Hard Workouts
Can you imagine for a second what it would be like if you spent a whole day laying on the couch, and then standing up to instantly break into a full-blown sprint? The first words coming to mind are: That would suck.
You’d probably stumble a bit, if not fall right over! Even once you got running, you might notice that your stride is a bit off, and you’re probably not getting all the air that you usually have for a run.
What’s going on? Well, remember the balloon analogy? Like a balloon or an elastic, your body could really benefit from a good stretch first. This allows you to gradually heat up your body temperature, making your muscles and lungs a bit more stretchy. This means when you do get into the hard stuff, your body will be ready to go, and less likely to encounter a strain or pulled muscle.
An Even Lighter Warm Up Prior To Stretching
This is where I find that some opinions get divided, and some would have you believe that stretching actually makes you more prone to injury. I honestly don’t believe that to be true for the most part, but it is true that you can injure yourself by overstretching or stretching too quickly.
A good thing to do if you have the time, is warm up lightly with something like a brisk walk before getting into a heavy stretching routine. This “warms up the elastic” that is your body before you start applying pressure to it.
4. Resets The Body After A Workout
If you’re familiar with the art of the Cool Down, then think of a little post-workout stretching as a good opportunity to get your body back to normal after the hard work is finished.
A good cool down session will do such things as regulating your heart rate, prevent you from getting a blood rush, prevent dizziness, remove lactic acid, and restore proper tension to your muscles.
If you go from high intensity exercising to a dead stop, your body won’t know how to respond accordingly so it’s best to give yourself 5 or 10 minutes to do some very light exercise to ease the process. A brief stretching routine is a perfect choice here.
5. Improves Blood Flow Through The Body
By continuing to stretch on a regular basis, you’re giving your body a solid improvement in the overall blood flow through your system. This means that you’re less likely to encounter things like blood clots and you’ll keep the nutrients from food moving to where they’re needed most.
This also means that in times of sudden stress or adversity, your body can respond quicker and more efficiently thanks to good circulation. Less of that irritating “pins and needles” feeling because of sleeping limbs too!
There’s definitely more good reasons out there, and I’m sure I’ll be writing a follow-up article on this subject in the future, but for now I just want you to get some of the basics down.
Stretching is an easy way to get in some light exercise, and like Meditation, it holds many not-so-obvious benefits for athletes and individuals from all walks of life.
Try a bit of light stretching each day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Try for 5-10 minutes each if you have the time, and always after you finish a hard workout like a bodybuilding routine. If you want to take it up a notch, check out some free Yoga sessions on YouTube. I’ll even leave one down below for you. Adriene is awesome at what she does, so consider subscribing to her channel for more awesome Yoga workouts and Meditation too.
Disclaimer: I’m not a Doctor, and this isn’t medical advice. Just friendly pointers from someone that has been down the road and back.