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The Fitness Zone

Stretching for Optimum health
June 6, 2011

A HUGE number of gym goers think that stretching after their workout is a waste of time, with a lot of Personal Trainers not including stretching in their sessions, with the expectations that their client will stretch themselves, which none of the less, never happens. What these gym goers need to understand is how beneficial regular stretching, even for just five - ten minutes a day, can have on your body and your health, so have FIVE of these benefits explained below which should entice you to get your stretch on NOW!

#1 Stretching Improves Your Strength

You read correctly, regular stretching increases strength by improving circulation and blood flow to the muscles. This not only provides greater nutrients to every muscle of the body but helps those muscles recover faster in between workouts. The increased blood flow helps prevent soreness and muscles fatigue during recovery periods and allows for more frequent high-intensity workouts. We are sold already!

#2 Stretching Will Increase Your Flexibility

Stretching is the most effective way to improve flexibility. As the body ages, muscles shorten and tighten which as a result decreases your range of motion, and increases the chance of tendon, ligament, and other soft tissue injuries. Flexibility also helps with fluid motion in athletic performance. Watch out not to over stretch though – overly flexible muscles are injury prone and give you a sloppiness when moving.

#3 Stretching Aids Good Circulation

Lengthening and loosening the muscles helps dramatically with circulation. Not only will this help reduce post-workout soreness and shorten recovery time, but it will improve overall health. Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. The heart rate will also lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard and blood pressure will become more even and consistent.

#4 Stretching Reduces Stress

Stretching reduces stress through loosening the muscles and relieving built up tension, e.g that stiff neck you get from sitting at a desk all day. It also releases endorphins in the brain that can cause a feeling of wellbeing and calmness. It is also thought that stretching reduces stress through a mechanism similar to meditation or yoga, in that it promotes a state of mindfulness.

#5 Stretching Increases Your Range of Motion

An increased range of motion in the joints has many benefits, and stretching is the best way to achieve this. It improves balance, which decreases risk of injury, and improves athletic performance. It also allows for more complete workouts, whether it be swimming, jogging, or lifting, an increased range of motion will allow for better form and complete muscle recruitment.

An essential part of anyone's exercise and sports routine should include a warm-up stretch and a cool-down stretch routine at the end. This allows the muscles to expel toxins and to remain supple in order to keep the flow of blood around the body. You're probably familiar with the feeling when you haven't stretched properly before a workout the next day you wake up with sore muscles and unable to move properly.

Stretching helps with balance and posture and gives the body an opportunity to realign itself, allowing the muscles to elongate and relax. With a regular stretching routine, flexibility and range of motion are enhanced. Improvements in flexibility and coordination will help to prevent injury during a workout or sporting activity.

With a regular stretching routine, people notice a positive effect on their mental and emotional health as they become more relaxed. When we feel stressed there is a tendency to hold the tension in the muscles, so stretching is a good way to reduce that tension and will help to change our physiological response to stress in the future.

Happy Stretching!

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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