If stretching isn’t a part of your daily routine, then it’s time to get stretching. Stretching is a key part of both your fitness aspirations and your overall health (like reducing stress). The importance of stretching cannot be overstated, especially if you are planning to drop that sedentary lifestyle.
Let’s face the facts. If you are like most people in the United States, you probably sit way more than you should. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950. The startling reality is that most Americans sit while working, during their commutes, during their Netflix binges, or fumbling around on their personal devices.
This lack of movement, the constant state of being seated, is tuning your body to be in a tight state. Being in a tight state decreases your overall flexibility, your range of motion and can increase your physical body ailments.
Stretching for Flexibility
There is no better time than right now to get stretching. Like exercise, stretching needs to be part of your daily routine. Your muscles didn’t get tight overnight. Your muscles have tightened up over months or years of poor lifestyle choices. So don’t expect stretching to loosen those same muscles overnight. But, daily stretching will incrementally increase your overall flexibility and range of motion.
Range of Motion
By increasing your flexibility, you are concurrently decreasing the tightness of your muscles. By decreasing this tightness, you will increase your range of motion. This happens by allowing your joints to move through their full range of motion, which gives you more freedom of movement.
It is estimated that Back Pain will be felt by up to 80% of the population at some point in their lives. Back pain is also one of the most common reasons Americans miss work. Your range of motion, or lack thereof, puts a strain on your body. This strain forces you to use your lower back more than you should or forcing you to use improper form. This in turn causes you to strain the muscles in your back, which leads to all kinds of back pain. Stretching can help heal an existing back issue and regular stretching can help prevent it all together.
Muscle tightness can lead to muscle imbalances throughout the body, which leads to poor posture. Due to sitting down, the muscles in your shoulders, neck, and back will tighten over time. As these muscles tighten you will start to hunch forward and slouch. As your posture gets worse, your muscles will tighten faster and faster. Stretching can restore these muscles to a loose state, making it easier to sit and stand up straight.
Stretching for Activity
If your lack of flexibility is causing issues during your day-to-day routine, imagine what would happen if you began exercising without developing a stretching routine first. You would suffer a number of setbacks and injuries. Even if somehow, you were able to make it through and not injure yourself, not stretching would also rob you of muscle development.
The goal is to become physically active. But not preparing your body to become physically active can lead to injuries and pain. By increasing your range of motion through stretching, you increase the amount of muscle you can activate during an activity. An example of this is if you suffer from tight hamstrings and attempt to start running you are limiting the range of motion of both your hips and knees. Not only can this lead to improper form, which can lead to injuries, but you won’t get as much out of your workout. This decreases your overall gains and can hurt long-term progress.
Regular stretching can increase blood flow circulation. Increasing the circulation throughout your body brings more blood to your muscles. This in turn can help shorten recovery time and reduce muscle soreness. Reducing soreness and recovery time can allow you to get more back-to-back workouts in.
There are 7 different types of stretching. Static and Dynamic are the most commonly used.
Types of stretching:
1. Static Stretching
Static stretching is when you stretch to your furthest point and hold it there for 2-4 minutes. This type of stretch is perfect for post-workout and cooldown stretching.
2. Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching loosens muscles using movement and momentum. You use your range of motion and never going past it. Arm and leg swings are types of dynamic stretching. This type of stretch is perfect for pre-workouts and warming up.
3. Ballistic Stretching
Ballistic stretching is when you gently bounce in and out of a stretched position past your normal range of motion. This can increase flexibility by sending a signal to your body to get ready for an upcoming high-impact activity. This type of stretch is perfect for high-impact exercise or before playing sports.
4. Passive Stretching
Passive stretching is when you hold a position with the assistance of your own body or gravity. Doing a split is an example of a passive stretch. This type of stretch is also used after a workout and during cooldown phases.
5. Active Stretching
Active stretching is when you hold a position using only your own body to get into that position. Many yoga poses can be considered active stretching. This type of stretching is used before a strength workout.
6. Isometric Stretching
Isometric stretching involves the tensing of different muscle groups against an external force. This is commonly used during physical therapy.
7. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching
PNF stretching is a technique developed in the 1940s by Dr. Herman Kabat. It was initially designed to help patients with neuromuscular conditions but has made inroads to the healthcare and fitness communities. PNF combines isometric and passive stretching to allow you to get a deeper stretch. This can be used as a standalone workout to build overall strength and flexibility.
Start a Daily Stretch Routine
A daily stretching routine doesn’t need to take all day but taking 10-15 minutes to stretch yourself out is vital to your overall health. Not only will you begin to prime your body for future exercise activity, but you will increase your day-to-day feeling as well. Stretching can be done at any point of the day, but is especially beneficial early in the morning, just before bed, or before and any type of physical activity.
Incorporating something like yoga can help tackle both exercise and stretching. Decide what ways incorporating this routine into your life works best. However you decide to add it to your life, hold yourself accountable and get stretching.