e know stretching increases flexibility, but do the benefits of being more flexible make it worthwhile to put forth the effort and time it takes to stretch? To gain the benefits, stretching must be done at least twice weekly; daily is better and recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.
As we age, we lose flexibility in our muscles, which puts us at more risk of an injury. Injury prevention is the major benefit of being more flexible, but it can also help by:
Stretching and Flexibility Reduces Back Pain
Tight muscles can pull the back and lower body in ways that create pain. For example, tight hamstrings can pull the pelvis down thus creating unnatural pressure on the lower back.
Flexibility Increases Your Range of Motion
Having full range of motion makes everyday tasks much easier. Now you can reach for that dish on a high shelf in your cupboard and not feel the wince of pain because you are stretching the muscles farther than they usually stretch. Or bend over to tie your shoes without pain. A stretching program increases flexibility of those muscles.
Stretching Improves Posture
Increased flexibility allows you to have a better, more erect posture if you don’t have tight muscles pulling you in ways that prevent an erect upright position. Being able to stand up puts your head and spine in line with each other in what is known as neutral alignment. This alone can reduce neck and shoulder pain by centering your head directly over your spine
Stretching Helps Lessening Stress
Likewise, the act of stretching relaxes not only tight muscles, but also reduces stress. That is one reason why yoga is a good stretching program not only for the body, but also the mind. Having less stress has its own health benefits, including weight loss and improved mood, just to name two.
Flexibility Improves Circulation
When muscles are tight, it is hard for the blood to get deep inside them to bring oxygen and nutrients in and take out waste generated by muscle use. Increased flexibility loosens up muscles thus allowing blood to circulate better.
And it doesn’t stop there; in a 2009 study, participants with less flexibility had significant more arterial stiffness thus increasing their risk of a stroke, heart attack or heart disease.
The health benefits derived from flexibility (both physical and mental) are worth the cost of time and energy put into stretching or other exercise programs that increases flexibility, like yoga or Pilates. And even if there were no health benefits, being flexible and having a full range of motion just feels good.
If you want to learn more about why stretching is so important, you might want to download our free eBook: Why Everyone Should Stretch Regularly.