If you’re short of time to exercise, then you might think stretching isn’t the best use of your time. Stretching isn’t likely to make any difference to a weight loss program, or improve heart health. So how important is it?
Why we should stretch
It’s not good to have tight muscles. This is because they will restrict movement and make injury more likely. In order to maintain flexibility, muscles need to be stretched to their full length regularly. For most people, this isn’t something that happens in normal everyday activity. In fact, many people have jobs in which they don’t move much at all, or use the same muscles in repetitive movements. Regular stretching will therefore help to stop muscles getting tight and problems developing.
Benefits of regular stretching
- Regularly stretching muscles increases the range of movement around the joints. This means that muscle injury is less likely and movements are smoother and easier.
- Stretching reduces tension in muscles
- Increased range of movement around the joints can improve sports and exercise performance
- Being flexible allows us to bend, reach and turn easily
- Tight muscles lead to posture problems – bad posture affects the way you look and can lead to pain and injury
When to stretch
At one time most fitness programs included a “warm-up” stretch. The thinking was that muscles should be taken to their full length to prepare them for exercise, but research seems to show that this isn’t necessary. There is also an argument that stretching after exercise helps to prevent soreness, but research hasn’t supported this either. However, what we do know is that muscles should be warm before we stretch them, to avoid injury. So, it makes sense to stretch at the end of an exercise session, when our muscles are warm.
What should you stretch?
Our flexibility depends on how active we are and what activities we do. The less we move our joints, the less mobile they become. On the other hand, an active occupation that involves repetitive movements can also lead to tightness in certain muscles. The most common areas that people have reduced flexibility are:
- Lower back
- Hip flexors
Combining massage and stretching
Often when muscles are shortened, they also hold tension and have fibre adhesions (“knots”). So regular massage can help to make a stretching program more effective, by loosening up the muscle and allowing it to stretch. It can also help to stop flexibility problems developing, by maintaining full range of movement of the muscle.
Find out more
If you’re interested in improving your flexibility with massage and stretching, you can make an appointment here:
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