11 Benefits of Stretching That Will Make Anyone Want to Move Their Body

3 weeks ago

Stretching is one component of fitness that a lot of us find way too easy to skip. But there are some benefits of stretching that might just make you want to add it to your routine.

While the research on stretching is a bit mixed, there are some legit mental and physical benefits to incorporating it into your routine, whether you stretch pre-workout, at the end of your session, or another time during the day People who make time for stretching may find it helps their workouts—and daily life—feel a little (or a lot) better.

But before we dig into those benefits, it can be helpful to understand what exactly we mean by stretching.

Stretching is basically any movement that lengthens your muscles (and along with them, the tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue) even temporarily, physical therapist and strength coach Ivan Hernandez, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., owner of Executive Park PT and Wellness in New York, tells SELF. Pretty much every time you move your body, something is getting stretched, Candace Harding, D.P.T., a physical therapist and registered yoga teacher in Vienna, Virginia, tells SELF.

To get a little more specific though, there are several different types of stretches. Static stretches involve moving into an end range of motion and then holding that position, physical therapist and strength coach Ravi Patel, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Impact Health and Performance in Atlanta, tells SELF. Examples of static stretches include pulling your heel to your butt and holding it there to stretch your quad, or bending and pulling your elbow overhead to stretch your tricep.

Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, involve active, controlled movements performed through a larger range of motion, physical therapist Cydni Matsuoka, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., from SPEAR Physical Therapy in New York City, tells SELF. Think: walking lunges, arm circles, and deep squats. Oftentimes dynamic stretches are done pre-workout as a way to prepare your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for exercise, she explains.

There are also ballistic stretches, which involve aggressively bouncing or otherwise moving into an end range of motion, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretches, which involve contracting and relaxing muscles as a way to increase a stretch. Because ballistic stretching is not recommended for the general population (it can be dangerous), and PNF stretching is often done with the assistance of a professional, we’re not going to focus on those two forms of stretching in this article.

Physical Benefits of Stretching

1. Stretching improves flexibility.

Flexibility is the range of motion of a joint, or group of joints, certified exercise physiologist, John Ford, owner of JKF Fitness & Health in New York City, tells SELF. Stretching can help increase your range of motion—both temporarily and in the long-term. The temporary gains may be the result of your nervous system becoming more tolerant to a stretch position, says Patel. These gains often disappear within a day or even a few hours. To actually lengthen the muscle and thus improve your range of motion long term, you need to stretch diligently about five to six days a week, he says.

2. Stretching can help you better recruit your muscles when working out.

If you’re able to stick with a regular stretching routine, you may see only an increase in range of motion, but also improvement in your performance. Ford explains it this way: The more range of motion you have, the more muscle you’ll be able to activate. For example, if you have limited range of motion in your hamstrings, you might only be able to activate, say, 40% of the muscle when performing a single-leg deadlift. But if you increase your hamstring flexibility, you can then activate, say 60%, of that muscle. The result? You’ll gain strength, Ford explains, which would allow you to lift more weight—and thus get even stronger. Having more range of motion can also help you perform a broader range of exercises, he adds.

3. Stretching makes day-to-day life feel easier.

Increasing your flexibility won’t just improve your workouts—it can also make everyday life better, too, says Ford. You may not realize it, but there are a lot of daily tasks that involve some level of flexibility. Like squatting to sink in and out of a chair, leaning over to get in your car, and bending down to scoop up your toddler. By boosting your flexibility with stretching, you’ll be able to perform these small but essential day-to-day movements more easily and effectively.

4. Stretching primes you for your workout.

Experts typically recommend dynamic stretches before a workout. That’s because pre-workout dynamic stretches are “a way of moving slow before you move fast,” says Hernandez. By doing this, “you’re preparing your body to work efficiently in order to both produce and absorb high forces,” he explains.

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