Stretching Benefits – Stretch Yourself Happy
The goal of stretching is to maintain symmetry throughout the body. When you move evenly on both sides you work more efficiently. You are better able to deal with stress and strain. Although there has been conflicting evidence with regards to static stretching before a strenuous activity (you are better off warming up with a range of sport specific active movements), the benefits of regular stretching (3-4 times per week) help to lengthen the muscle, and increase joint range of motion.
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BENEFITS OF STRETCHING:
- It helps to stabilize moods, makes you more relaxed and aids in stress relief. Stretching helps to release endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These are the chemicals secreted from the brain, which help to motivate us, fight off depression and decrease anxiety.
- We work more efficiently, and allow us to exercise for longer.
- It gives us more energy, due to the release of dopamine, it is a natural pick me up, it increases productivity, and drives us to take action towards our goals, desires, and needs.
- It helps to relax muscles and prepare the body for sleep through the regulation of melatonin secretion.
- We become less prone to injuries due to increased flexibility and improved range of motion
- Works wonders for our postures by reversing all the harm we do to our musculoskeletal system by sitting all day.
- And finally, it can enhance muscular coordination, by regulating muscle imbalances.
HOW TO STRETCH:
Don’t use stretching as a warm-up, before stretching warm-up with 5-10 mins of low-intensity activity. This wakes up the body, includes blood flow to our muscles and prepares the body for exercise.
- Foam roll first to increase blood flow to muscles. It results in greater benefit being gained from your new stretching regime.
- Focus on major muscle groups. We can make it sport-specific or go for the whole body including calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, gluteals, chest, back and neck.
- Hold stretches for 30 seconds to 1 min. The longer and more regularly you can stretch the more long-term benefits you will see.
- Sport specific, e.g. soccer players will focus predominately on legs, rugby or AFL will incorporate more whole body.
- Active stretching, e.g. by tensing the quadriceps we automatically make the hamstrings relax.
- Make it a regular thing, whilst it can be time-consuming. It is only a waste of time when done sporadically
As a final note, it may be worth considering holding off on stretching before intense activity. Current evidence indicates static stretching can be harmful and actually decrease performance. In this instance I would recommend a more active warm-up, incorporating sport-specific movements to prepare the muscles.
MY FAVOURITE STRETCH:
The Bretzel Stretch:
This exercise increases thoracic mobility while challenging the opposite anterior hip.
- Lie on either side with one knee up on a foam roll or pad to keep the hips stacked. The other down in a neutral position, and the head is supported by a foam pad.
- Take the hand of the arm that is in contact with the ground.
- Grab the knee that is flexed up at belly button height.
- Take the other hand and grab the ankle of the leg that is behind the back, while keeping the hip in extension.
- If it is too difficult to grab the ankle then use a towel or strap.
Action: Begin to inhale and on the exhale start to rotate the shoulders away from the up leg. Cycle through this progression 5-10 times. Until the shoulder is turned as far as possible (coming close to the ground) or until you stop making progress.
Return: After taking 2-3 breaths in the fully rotated position slowly return back to the set-up position.
Don’t forget to check out our most popular article: Fix Your Hip Extension, Fix Your Back Pain.