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10 Benefits of Stretching to Improve Health & Wellbeing

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We’re not stretching the truth when we say stretching is for EVERYONE! As we age our muscles shorten and tighten, reducing our flexibility. The best way to keep your muscles long, strong, and relaxed at any age is to stretch them every day. In today’s blog, we’ll dive into the many proven benefits of stretching, and then talk about the top 5 stretches that will help release and strengthen the muscles in your spine, lower back, hips, quads, and legs.

10 Benefits of Stretching

It’s not a stretch to say that stretching is one of the most important ways you can care for your body and improve your health and wellbeing. Our muscle fibers are very pliable. Muscles can stretch up to one and a half times their original length. But tendons aren’t nearly as flexible. Stretching a tendon just 4% beyond its resting shape can cause permanent damage. Injuries often occur when tendons are stretched too quickly or in unexpected directions. That’s why it’s important to warm up BEFORE stretching by jogging or pedaling an exercise bike slowly for a few minutes. By increasing blood flow to your muscles and tendons, they’ll be relaxed and ready to stretch. In a typical workout, you should spend 5 minutes warming up, 5-10 minutes stretching, and then begin your workout.

There are 10 proven benefits to stretching:

  1. Improves posture: Many of us spend the majority of our day hunched in front of a computer screen. When you hunch, you make your muscles weak, which leads to poor posture. When you stretch, you put those weakened muscles to work, strengthening them.
  2. Promotes circulation: Stretching increases blood flow, boosts oxygen levels, and helps deliver nutrients to your muscles. Improved blood flow also removes metabolic waste like carbon dioxide, ammonia, and uric acid.
  3. Reduces muscle soreness: When you exercise, muscles contract and shorten. Muscle soreness after exercise signals a build-up of lactic acid. Gentle stretching will boost blood flow to muscles, bringing nutrients and oxygen to the muscles which breaks down the lactic acid and helps them repair and recover.
  4. Decreases pain: Stretching increases blood circulation, and the nutrient flow to muscles helps reduce pain. Tight muscles also cause pain and stretching releases tight muscles to reduce pain. Stretching also releases endorphins that help to reduce pain.
  5. Increases flexibility and improves range of motion: Stretching lengthens your muscles, allowing you to reach and extend farther. Stretching loosens stiff muscles and joint tissue, allowing greater range of motion.
  6. Prepares the body for physical activity: Muscles work best when they’re long and joints work best when they’re flexible. Stretching helps to release tension from muscles and joints, Strengthening the muscles around your joints can also improve your coordination and dexterity.
  7. Promotes better sleep: Stretching reduces tension in your muscles which releases endorphins into your bloodstream. Endorphins have stress-reducing and pain-relieving benefits that allow for a restful night’s sleep.
  8. Lowers your blood pressure: Stretching can reduce arterial stiffness, improve blood flow, and increase activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in reduced blood pressure.
  9. Improves balance: Stretching helps lengthen and relax muscles, and can enhance your balance and position awareness, all of which reduces the risk of falls.
  10. Relieves stress: Stretching increases your body’s levels of serotonin, which is the hormone that can help stabilize your mood and reduces stress and anxiety.

Stretches to Try at Home

One of the great things about stretching is that you don’t need any special equipment to do it. Stretching can be done anywhere at any time. Just make sure you do it safely and effectively. Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good. Here are 5 stretches to try at home:

  1. Child’s Pose: In this pose, kneel and sit on your knees with your knees slightly apart. Lean forward, keeping your buttocks on your heels, and rest your forehead on the floor. Move your arms so they’re next to your legs, palms facing up. Inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply, for at least eight breaths. If it’s hard for you to rest your forehead on the floor, lean forward, fold your arms in front of you on the floor, and rest your forehead on your arms.
  2. Cat-Cow Stretch: Kneel on the floor and put your hands on the floor in front of you. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees directly below your hips. Inhale deeply while curving your lower back and bringing your head up, tilting your pelvis up like a “cow.” Exhale deeply and bring your abdomen in, arching your spine and bringing your head and pelvis down like a “cat.” Repeat several times.
  3. Standing Quad Stretch: Stand near a wall for support. Grasp your ankle and gently pull your heel up and back until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Tighten your stomach muscles to prevent your stomach from sagging outward, and keep your knees close together. Hold for about 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
  4. Butterfly Pose: Sit on the edge of a cushion or folded blanket. This makes it easier to sit up straight. Gently bend your knees and press the soles of your feet together. To increase the intensity of the stretch, position your feet closer to your hips. For more comfort, place cushions or blocks under your thighs or knees. Interlace your fingers around the pinkie-toe side of your feet or place your hands on your ankles or shins. Lengthen your spine and broaden across your chest. Sit against a wall for spinal support. Draw your shoulders down and back. Stay in this position for up to 5 minutes. To release the pose, extend your legs forward and lean back on your hands.
  5. Legs-Against-The-Wall Stretch: Sit with your right side against the wall, with bent knees and your feet drawn in toward your hips. Swing your legs up against the wall as you turn to lie flat on your back. Place your hips against the wall or slightly away. Place your arms in any comfortable position. Stay in this position for up to 20 minutes. To release the pose, gently push yourself away from the wall. Relax on your back for a few moments. Draw your knees into your chest and roll onto your right side. Rest for a few moments before slowly moving into an upright position.

Stretching at OHI

We’ve hit the home stretch of this article on stretching! Stretching is one of the most important ways you can care for your body. The power of stretching is impressive — it improves posture, promotes circulations, reduces muscle soreness, decrease pain, increase flexibility and range of motion, prepares the body for physical activity, promotes better sleep, lowers blood pressure, improves balance, and relieves stress. Just remember, stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good, so always warm up before you stretch, don’t hold a stretch that is painful, and stretch every day to lengthen your muscles gradually and safely.

At OHI, our Stretch class teaches you how to put the power of stretching to work for you to activate your lymph system and cleanse your body. Stretching is a powerful way to honor your body and help you reach your optimal health and wellness.

Give yourself the gift of a healing retreat at OHI and jumpstart your holistic healing journey. Book your next visit to OHI today. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 to learn more about our holistic approach to health and wellness.