Have You Stretched Today?
Most health conscious individuals incorporate a combination of cardiovascular training and weightlifting into their daily fitness routines. However, often the most conscientious amongst us forget the importance of stretching exercises.
In fact, stretching exercises are one of the most overlooked and undervalued component of conditioning and physical fitness.
This stems mainly from the fact that stretching exercises do not produce immediate, tangible results and partially from the fact that there is a great deal of controversy and misinformation surrounding the role of stretching exercises in overall health and athletic performance.
*Check out this printable stretching routine designed to stretch all of your muscle groups, including your neck, shoulders and lower back muscles, HERE
- Stretching exercises increase the body’s overall range of motion, commonly referred to as flexibility. This increased flexibility can help improve a person’s athletic performance and minimize the risk of injury during physical activity.
- Studies have also hinted at the notion that stretching exercises have the ability to help speed up one’s metabolism. It is believed that this benefit is mostly achieved by improving blood flow into different internal organs and muscles.
- Stretching exercises can also help increase the production of synovial fluid in the joints. This fluid acts as the joints’ lubricating fluid and serves to lessen the friction between the joints’ moving parts. Aside from that, the synovial fluid also helps transport nutrients into joint tissues.
- Stretching exercises help lengthen muscle fibers and thus facilitate ease of movement, while improving muscle recovery and strength.
- Stretching exercises can help reduce the pain and stiffness of sore muscles. However, recent studies have shown that stretching, when performed either before or after exercise, does not prevent delayed onset muscle soreness, the type of muscle pain and stiffness that is typically felt 24 hrs to 72 hrs after strenuous exercise.
- Stretching exercises are highly effective at reducing chronic lower back pain and improving overall coordination and posture, especially in the elderly.
Controversy Surrounding Stretching Exercises
- Recent studies have shown that athletes, especially runners, who over-stretch risk predisposing themselves to physical injury and possible nerve damage. Therefore, you should never stretch your muscles to the point where it is painful to do so. (Yessis, Michael (2006) “Runners Need Active Stretching”. AMAA Journal Winter18 (2): 8–18).
- Other studies have indicated that active stretching routines that reduce muscle-tendon viscosity, and increase muscle elasticity, can cause physical injury to athletes who participate in sports activities in which there are little to no short-stretching cycles, such as cycling and jogging (“Stretching and Injury Prevention An Obscure Relationship.” Sports Medicine 34.7(2004): 443-449).