Stretching for Better Health

Story provided by Lauren Abbott, TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist

Being physically fit is a desirable and healthy goal that many people strive toward and even achieve. While the active part of this goal is vitally important, exercises that do not require moving or vigorous activity are also valuable. Stretching before and after exercise, as well as other points during the day, can help lead to optimal health and keep your body feeling good. Stretching is easy, calming, and can be done almost anywhere. Here are some of the health benefits of stretching:

  • Relaxes the body – carrying tension in your muscles can lead to feeling stressed, fatigued and off balance overall. Stretching can help relieve stress and loosen muscles to help relax and increase blood flow. It also helps release endorphins, which can help provide a sense of tranquility.
  • Helps posture – stretching can lengthen tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended positions.
  • Increases flexibility – stretching can increase flexibility and range of motion, which can reduce the likelihood of injury and discomfort.
  • Improves energy levels – tight muscles and restricted blood flow can make us feel tired and lethargic. A stretch to loosen muscles can provide a boost of energy.
  • Promotes good circulation – stretching increases blood flow to the muscles. This can help reduce post-workout soreness, shorten recovery time, and improve overall health. Good circulation helps promote cell growth and proper organ function. It can also lower your heart rate and help even out blood pressure.
  • Improve athletic performance – if you are the type to work out or are performing athletically, stretching can help your muscles be more available and effective during a workout.
  • Reduces soreness – stretching can help reduce soreness from athletic activity as well as everyday activities like sitting at a desk or standing for long periods of time.
  • Reduces cholesterol – paired with a healthy diet, engaging in prolonged stretching exercises can help reduce cholesterol in the body.

Stretching can be done in virtually any space, sitting or standing. To properly stretch, make sure you are warmed up beforehand. Walking while pumping your arms, jogging, or getting your heart rate up in any way will increase the effectiveness of the stretching as well as make sure the stretching does not do any muscular damage. Also, be sure to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds in order to safely and properly lengthen the muscles. Go up to 60 seconds for really tight muscles or problem areas. Be sure to not bounce when stretching, as bouncing can create microtears in the muscles, and make sure that your stretch is pain free. If you feel pain, you have gone too far. Also try to stay relaxed when stretching and breathe freely and deeply. Finally, make sure you are equally stretching both sides of your body, unless one side is more tight.

Not only should you be stretching before and after activity, stretching is beneficial at any point of the day, especially upon waking and right before going to sleep. Stretching can provide immediate relief, but also, over time, can lead to many health benefits!