In today’s article, we’re going to be looking at one of the most under-appreciated aspects of health and fitness – stretching.
Specifically, we’re going to be looking at several surprising benefits of stretching.
Now, we’re going to need you, to be honest with yourselves when reading this article.
Honestly, how many of you can say with conviction, that before exercising and working out, you take the time to stretch and warm-up?
We’d wager not that many of you, yet stretching is a basic fundamental of exercise that we should all adhere to.
There is no excuse for not stretching and warming up before you exercise.
It can be done in less than ten minutes, and it will provide you with countless benefits that will help you exponentially in the future.
If you’re guilty of not stretching or warming up before exercising, after reading this article, hopefully, that will change.
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When it comes to the benefits, one of the most commonly overlooked is the fact that it helps to promote positive mental health.
Stretching, and other various forms of exercise and physical exertion is very useful when it comes to your mental health.
Exercise and physical exertion help to promote the production and secretion of endorphins which lift your spirits and put you in a better mood.
This is why exercise is considered so effective when used as a natural stress and depression relief.
As well as that, you will also find that stretching helps you to think clearer, which again, can help to fight stress and anxiety.
Yoga, for example, is a form of stretching and it is renowned for its countless mental health benefits.
Okay when reading this article now, are you stood up straight with your spine aligned and your shoulders pulled back?
Probably not, you’re probably slumped forwards at a desk, reading on a computer, or lounging on the sofa or in bed and reading on your phone.
Neither of these positions is ideal when it comes to posture.
Poor posture can leave you susceptible to all manner of health ailments and issues.
From back and shoulder pain to pinched nerves, neck aches, headaches, and migraines, poor posture is no joke.
Furthermore, it can also make you appear to be shorter than you actually are.
This is where the benefit becomes apparent.
Stretching has been found to promote better posture.
It helps to free up pinched nerves and loosen up stiff joints and helps you to get your spine in alignment.
The end result is better posture, which can only be viewed as a good thing.
When it comes to exercise, having a superior range of motion is extremely beneficial.
Having a great range of motion will provide countless athletic benefits.
In fact, it will provide numerous benefits that will help you in everyday life.
Those with a good range of motion often take this for granted.
For somebody that suffers from a poor range of motion in their elbows, for example, something as seemingly basic as being able to fully extend their arm can be a very painful ordeal.
This is another reason why you should perform more stretching.
Stretching allows you to fully extend your joints through a complete range of motion.
It loosens up stiff and sore joints and helps you to become more mobile and a great deal more limber.
If you play sports or are athletic, this is especially beneficial though in truth, having a good range of motion will help you in everyday life.
On the subject of being athletic, we can’t talk about the benefits without talking about athletic performance.
Stretching is very useful for people that play sports as it helps them to run faster, it makes them more agile and quicker, it makes them lighter on their feet, and it allows their muscles to contract more efficiently.
Basically, stretching is vital if you want to perform at your best athletically.
Have you ever noticed how some people are flexible and nimble, yet others are as stiff as a board and about as flexible as a solid oak tree?
If you’re the latter, stretching will prove especially beneficial for you.
Well, because stretching has been found to promote improved flexibility and agility.
Stretching loosens up your muscles and helps to make your muscle fibers more elastic.
This, in turn, means that your muscles can stretch further before encountering natural resistance.
This makes you a much more flexible person.
Everyday tasks from tying your shoelaces, to picking something up off of the ground becomes easier as you become more flexible.
This is, without a doubt, one of the most important benefits.
If you need just one reason to stretch before exercising, let it be this.
Stretching before you exercise will enable you to drastically reduce your chance of injury.
When it comes to sports and physical activity, sports-related injuries are very common.
Sometimes they are unavoidable, yet in other instances, they could easily be avoided.
Stretching before exercise will reduce your risk of injury.
Stretching loosens up your muscles and increases the elasticity of your muscle fibers.
This lengthens them and means that they’re less likely to tear.
If you imagine an elastic band, do you think it would be likely to rip if it was pulled tight, or if it was loose and relaxed?
Of course, it would be more likely to rip if pulled tight, and the same goes with your muscles.
If you want to avoid pulled and torn muscles, be sure to stretch before you take part in physical exercise.
Stretching before exercise isn’t just great for avoiding injury, it’s also useful for warming up.
Another of the benefits that we’re listing today is the fact that it enables you to warm up before exercise.
Stretching before working out will help to increase your core body temperature before training.
This, in turn, will make all aspects of working out that much easier.
Believe it or not, but another of the awesome and surprising stretching benefits that we’re going to be looking at today is the fact that it enables you to burn fat.
When we think of fat loss, we think of cardio workouts on treadmills or jogging.
We tend not to think of stretching.
Stretching is actually quite physically demanding, and as a result, you will burn off a significant amount of calories each week if you get into the habit of stretching on a daily basis.
Don’t get us wrong, you can’t expect to drop 5 – 6 pounds a week through stretching alone, but it will certainly help you to burn off those extra calories and as a result, it is a useful form of fat loss.
Another reason why health experts, personal trainers, and athletes all tend to recommend stretching, is because of the fact that it improves your circulation.
Stretching helps to increase your heart rate which in turn will allow more blood to be pumped around your body.
This increase in circulation is very beneficial as it will help to increase your energy levels, plus it will also improve your athletic performance.
An increase in circulation means an increase in oxygen transportation which means more energy for your cells, and you by proxy.
If you’re looking for a way of speeding up your recovery after a grueling training session, one of the best things you can do is stretch.
People often fail to realize that stretching is an important aspect of cooling down after a training session and recovering, as well as for warming up.
Stretching gently will boost circulation and will help to loosen up stiff and tense muscles flooded with lactic acid.
The end result will be your muscles feeling much looser and much better after a hard session.
If you’ve ever suffered from back pain before, you’ll know how painful and debilitating it can be.
If you haven’t, then think yourself lucky because it is absolutely brutal.
Another of the relatively unknown benefit is the fact that stretching is great for the back.
Stretching has been found to strengthen the back and help ease back pain and discomfort.
It enables you to stand up straight and bend over easily, without having to worry about any pain or discomfort.
Tight muscles in the back can lead to a limited range of motion and backache which is likely to result in a strain.
Stretching is a great way of ensuring that this isn’t an issue.
If you suffer from frequent headaches in the form of a tension headache perhaps, you’ll be pleased to hear that stretching is extremely beneficial.
Stretching has been found to reduce the severity and frequency of tension headaches, thereby improving your quality of life.
Not only that but if you get into the habit of stretching regularly, you can actually prevent these headaches altogether.
If you want to get big and strong, everybody knows that you need to hit the gym and lift heavy weights, right?
Well, not always.
It turns out that another of the awesome benefits that we’re going to be looking at today is that stretching can help you to strengthen your muscles and become stronger.
Stretching helps to strengthen your core and works the muscles slightly, which will make you stronger.
Don’t get us wrong, you won’t become a powerlifter through stretching alone, but it certainly helps.
If you need yet another reason to do more stretching, you now have one.
That reason is the fact that stretching is so extremely easy to do.
There are a number of exercises and movements that you can do, with minimal effort.
Whether you want a gentle stretch or a deep stretch, it is very easy to do, which means that more people can do it.
Another of the more surprising benefits is actually the fact that there is so much variety.
If you look online for stretches that you can perform before exercise, you’ll find that there are all kinds of different movements you can do.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re stretching out your hamstrings, your quads, your calves, your shoulders, your core, or any other part of the anatomy, there are countless stretches you can do, which means that you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.
Some stretches can be done with the assistance of gym equipment such as medicine balls, foam rollers, and such like.
Most other stretches, though, can be done anywhere, at any time, with no equipment needed.
All you need is a little open space and you can perform a variety of stretches anywhere, at any time.
So, whether you’re at work, at home, in the garden, at the park, the running track, or anywhere else, you can do all kinds of stretches anywhere, without needing any specialist equipment.
And with that, we shall bring today’s article to a close.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about the many surprising benefits of stretching, and we hope that it has inspired you to incorporate more stretching into your routine.
Try to get into the habit of stretching daily, and you’ll be amazed by what a difference it makes.
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.