What is Stretching?
Stretching is the process of moving limbs and joints into a specific position that will cause a lengthening or elongated effect on the soft tissues around them. The soft tissues in question are the muscles, fascia’s (a skin that connects muscle to muscle), ligaments (tissue that connects bone to bone) and tendons (a tissue that connects muscle to bone).
What are the Types of Stretching?
There’s two types of basic stretches:
- Dynamic – which refers to being on the move whilst completing a stretch through a specific range of movement.
- Static – where you are in one position and hold a stretch for a period of time, anywhere between 10-60 seconds is normal.
What are the Benefits of Stretching?
It decreases stress
Stress causes many unwanted reactions in your body, including anxiety, fatigue, and sometimes a poor state of mental health. Regular stretching has been clinically proven to improve mental health when incorporated with breathing techniques.
It may improve health
As stated above, performing regular stretching exercises that include breathing techniques such as Yoga and Pilates, help increase your mind/body discipline. This can assist with mental health, help reduce blood pressure, reduce your resting heart rate, and neutralise the body’s physiological responses to stress and muscular tension.
Improve range of movement (ROM)
A regular stretching program can also reduce pain and stiffness of joints. When we are in pain, generally your muscles and soft tissue will contract around the painful area causing cramps, spasms and reduce the range of movement around the joint in order to protect itself. This can be seen in a number of injuries, more commonly in those with whiplash related conditions. By including regular stretching in your routine, your flexibility will increase, improving the range of movement in your joints, thus reducing your soft tissue tension and joint stiffness.
Reduce risk of injury
In a number of sports, stretching is considered to be very important as cold soft tissues in the body have a greater likelihood of rupture, strain or sprain. In football, both static and dynamic stretches are used as part of a warm-up to help increase your body’s core temperature and functionally in order to prepare it for the event.
Runners can often find they are susceptible to soreness in their hips and knees following a run. For this, there are a great few stretches shown in the video below, which can be done to help prevent muscle soreness and build up endurance and performance.
For athletes and competitors, having a large range of movement and flexibility available from participating in regular stretching program can be the difference between winning and losing. Specifically in sports such as Athletics, Gymnastics, and Marathon Running.
Stretching exercises such as Pilates that focus on your breathing techniques, can re-train your body’s movement patterns and improve your body mechanics. Body mechanics is simply the way you use your body on a daily basis, including when you sit, stand, bend and sleep. Poor body mechanics can often lead to a number of back problems.
As your body works more efficiently, your function will improve and with more flexibility and movement, you are able to do more and improve your functional potential.
Minimise wear & tear on joints
If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, or you have wear and tear of your joints, regular stretching could be hugely beneficial. It can help keep the muscle and soft tissue either side of a joint equally loose, therefore minimising abnormal weight baring loads through your joints and maximising movement potential.
Improved quality of life
Taking into consideration all the benefits mentioned above, there is certainly an argument to say that your overall health and well being can be improved through your increased function in daily activities and work-related duties.
If you found this blog and the video useful, head over to our YouTube Channel and watch our latest videos including “Hip Strengthening Exercises: 3 Ways to Reduce Running Related Injuries”.