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The benefits of stretching 1260x542

The benefits of stretching

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Find out how incorporating regular stretching into your routine can help you to get the best out of your workout and keep your body at its best.

Stretching is an integral part of any fitness regime, whether you’re an elite athlete or more of a recreational exerciser.

Unfortunately, it is also often the most neglected part of our exercise routine.

Are you one of many who know you’re supposed to stretch but aren’t really sure why it’s so important?

What happens when we stretch?

Our muscles consist of cells called myofibres, which are made up of narrower structures called myofibrils. Thick and thin myofilaments are the found within the myofibrils.

When muscles contract the myofilaments slide in between one another and essentially shorten the muscle. When we stretch we lengthen these fibres and elongate or lengthen the muscle.

Benefits of stretching

  • Improve flexibility - by lengthening the muscle they become more flexible. Regular stretching will also help to maintain flexibility.
  • Improve joint range of motion (ROM) - joints are made up of non-elastic connective tissue while the muscles are elastic in nature. A short muscle will limit the ROM of joints, whereas lengthened muscles allow a full natural ROM for the joints.
  • Improve posture - by lengthening the muscles with stretching, we can maintain correct posture. If the muscles are shortened we can have imbalances in the body (i.e. rounded shoulders).
  • Decrease muscle soreness - our muscles can become sore a day or two after we exercise, particularly if it is a type of exercise we haven’t done before. Stretching will prevent the muscles from becoming stiff and sore.
  • Prevent injury - by improving the flexibility of the muscle and allowing the joint’s natural ROM, we are able to move more efficiently when training or during normal daily activities, decreasing the risk of injury.
  • Improve circulation - stretching helps to improve circulation by improving blood flow to the muscles.
  • Relax and relieve stress - lengthening the muscles enables them to relax and also allows your body to relax. Stress is often accompanied by tight, tense muscles that can be relaxed with a good stretch.

How to stretch

Now that you know why it is so important to stretch regularly, do you know how to stretch properly? 

  • Remember to breathe - when stretching, don’t hold your breath. Take a breath in and then move into the stretch as you breathe out. Continue to breathe in and out as you hold the stretch.
  • No pain does not mean no gain - if you feel pain when you stretch you have gone too far.
  • Ease into it - hold your initial stretch for 12-18 seconds, ease off then move back into the stretch just a bit further but before the point of pain. Repeat this sequence a couple of times for each stretch.

If you’re unsure of how to stretch properly, have an existing injury or don’t know which stretches are best for you, consult with a physiotherapist for a help and advice.