Why is Stretching Important?

Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle

Stretching is where most of us make a big mistake…we don’t do it!

“In gymnastics, I would spend one to two hours stretching each day.  I was not naturally flexible like some of the other girls on the team.  However, I was able to sneak in a little extra stretching by doing homework or watching television in the splits.  I knew stretching was important if I wanted to do the difficult skills.  I don’t need stretching in order to tumble along a balance beam anymore, but there are numerous other ways that I (and you!) can benefit from stretching.” –Shannon Miller

So Why Is Stretching Important?

Although some studies on the benefits of stretching have had mixed results, most athletes will tell you that stretching is a very important part of their daily workout. It is clear that stretching for gymnastics is extremely important since flexibility is an integral part of gymnastics, but what about sports like weight-lifting? Flexibility isn’t what is important with lifting weights, strength is! However, if a weight lifter fails to stretch after workouts for an extended amount of time, it is likely that they could develop a vertebral hernia. From a physiological stand point, as a weight lifter’s hamstrings get stronger and tighter, they begin to pull the spine down with them, resulting in a posterior pelvic tilt, which, changed the curvature of the spine. After continuous repetition of those exercises, the lumbar curve slowly disappeared and one day a heavy lift causes a hernia in the vertebrae. Now this is an extreme example, but this injury could have been completely avoided by stretching the hamstrings after each workout!

So, despite that some studies have mixed results on the benefits of stretching; in this case, stretching would have prevented a pretty serious injury! Below are just a few more examples of how stretching is beneficial!

Increased Circulation

Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. More blood flow to the muscles brings more oxygen to the muscle and takes away the waste byproducts created through exercising those muscles. Increased circulation can aid recovery time after a strenuous workout or after an injury to the muscle.

Flexibility and Increased Range of Motion

Flexibility does not only improve your workout, it improves your daily life and future joint health. Flexibility tends to diminish, as we get older since the muscles become shorter and tighter. Stretching after exercise, or engaging in yoga or Pilates, which heavily utilize stretching within the workout, can help you maintain a healthy range of motion for years to come.

Reduced Stress

Tight and tense muscles typically accompany stress. Stretching can relax those tight, tense muscles and help to alleviate stress. If you have a particularly stressful day, try to make time, even if it is just 10 minutes, to stretch! It is amazing what 10 minutes of quiet stretching can do to relax your muscles and in turn relax your mind!

Alleviate Lower Back Pain and Improve Posture

Over one half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year! While there are a number of different treatments for back pain, daily stretching is a free and easy way to help alleviate it! Frequent stretching helps your muscles from becoming tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture, minimizing discomfort.

Stretching can be done anytime, anywhere, whether you sit at a computer for much of the day or you are out and about running errands.  Take time out this week to get some stretching in!

For some great stretching poses, check out Shannon Miller’s Stretching To-Go!

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