Written by Sarah Milano
Stretching isn’t just about preventing a pulled muscle during exercise; it is about conditioning your body to move at ease. Have you ever watched your child bounce around the house and marvel at their flexibility? Children can bend their bodies in ways that seem inhuman. You may think “Ah, to be young again”, but the truth is, you can have their flexibility – no matter how old you are.
As we age, our muscles become tight and the range of motion in our joints decreases. This can result in muscle soreness and a general achy feeling – especially if you do anything active. Luckily, you can get your child-like flexibility back simply be stretching. Here are the biggest health benefits that you can experience by stretching your muscles regularly:
Decreased Risk of Injury
This is true whether you are an athlete or not. After playing a sport or exercising, it is imperative that you include stretching in your cool down. However, if you stretch on a regular basis, you will also decrease your risk of injury during routine activities such as climbing up stairs, walking the dog or even sprinting to catch the school bus.
Reduced Muscles Soreness
When you are inactive most of the day, such as sitting at a desk during work or at school, your muscles actually shorten and tighten. When you finally do stand up and move around, you can experience muscles soreness as a result. This is why your first instinct when standing up after sitting for a long term is to stretch your body out. However, if you stretched regularly, you can bypass this muscle soreness altogether.
Slowed Down Aging
There is a saying that “you are only as old as you feel”, and how true this is! If your muscles are tight, you are going to move a little slower and will feel that your range of motion is limited. Nothing makes you feel older than not being as vibrant as you once were. The best way to reverse this is by stretching regularly. You will lengthen your muscles which will improve your range of motion and you will experience less soreness which will allow you to move quicker.
Increased Blood Flow
Stretching increases blood flow to the areas of the body being worked. This increased blood flow brings vital nutrients as well as oxygen to cells in the body. As a result, you can improve overall health including cardiac function and toxin removal.
By stretching as a family, you are instilling healthy habits in your children that they will take with them for life. Not only will it help protect their muscles now, but it will teach them the importance of remaining flexible as they age.
You should never stretch cold muscles because you can actually cause damage. Instead, stretch when your muscles are already warmed up. Good times to stretch include:
- After walking home from school
- After walking the dog
- After playing outside
- After swimming
- After any form of exercise
Stretching shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes total. Make sure to stretch all of the major muscles groups including legs, glutes, core, back, arms and shoulders. Stretch until you feel resistance. It should feel uncomfortable but not painful. If you feel pain, then you are stretching too far and should let up a little. Hold a static stretch for 7-10 seconds before moving on. Over time, you will become more flexible and will find yourself being able to stretch further than ever before.