Stretching is a fundamental component in martial arts training however, stretching and improvements in flexibility have many benefits in our day-to-day lives. In its simplest form it is a natural and automatic reaction to long periods of inactivity and is something we do instinctively. However, with age, muscles tighten and the range of motion in these muscles and joints are minimised. This can have detrimental impacts to our lifestyle and our daily activities. A regular stretching regimen can help lengthen your muscles and make daily living activities easier.
So what exactly is stretching? Stretching is purely the act of extending or lengthening to the complete length or extent that our body is capable of, or, sometimes just a single body part. Stretching involves straightening or lengthening your complete structure, muscles, and limbs.
Stretching has profound benefits to the body and mind. According to Tony Robbins, the world renowned motivator/peak performance strategist, in order to change our mental state into a positive one, we need make changes to our physiology. Stretching sets you up for just that. I know personally, if i have a good warm up and stretching routine, i almost always have a successful workout. Stretching truly helps set you up for your day.
Overall Flexibility and Range of Motion will increase. Aches and pains that can be caused from physical or muscle imbalance can be re-adjusted.
Improved range of motion in your joints is simply another good thing about stretching exercises. With a decent range of motion you’re better balanced and cut back risk of falling and injury. This is often particularly vital as you get older. An increase in flexibility is accompanied by improved balance and coordination.
Chronically tense and tight muscles can also contribute to poor posture. Stretching helps to ensure correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture.
While relaxing and lengthening the muscles, you will be increasing blood and nutrient supply to that muscle group. This increase will help you increase energy levels, exercise for longer, burn more calories, prevent muscles soreness and aid in recovery.
A study at the University of Illinois found that when elderly people followed a stretching programme they experienced a boost in their self-esteem. “Stretching releases dopamine which helps you feel happier and more positive about the world,” says Dr Simon Floreani, chiropractor and Ambassador for Allied Health and Prevention.
Even a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) of stretching can calm the mind, provide a mental break, and give your body a chance to recharge, providing the you with meditative benefits.
High levels of Stress can cause your muscles to contract, becoming tense. This tension can have many negative flow-on effects to just about every part of the body. As with all forms of exercise, stretching and flexibility exercises can have powerful stress relieving abilities.
Witnessing your improvements in flexibility will boost your self confidence and will provide you with a sense of accomplishment and drive in this particular area. The sense of satisfaction derived from moving with ease is one to be grateful for.
There are two major type of stretching, static and dynamic. Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to exercise to prepare the joints for movement and muscles for optimal activation. Static sustained stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint or a muscle that is minimally challenging. It is highly encouraged to do a form of both dynamic and static stretching.
Everyone can learn to stretch, regardless of age or flexibility. Stretching should be a part of your daily routine, whether you exercise or not. There are simple stretches you can do while watching TV, on the computer, or getting ready for bed. If you are doing strength training exercises, stretch in between sets. It feels good and saves time from stretching at the end of the workout!
Implementing a stretching component to your weekly routine will have a profound impact on your mind and body. the success of your workout, your level of consistency in your workouts, allow for improvements through longevity as well as help get you in the correct state by changing your physiology. Be kind to your body and your body will be kind to you.