We all know just how much exercising can help our overall health, but stretching is just as important as the exercise itself. Stretching our muscles is a key part of keeping the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy in order to maintain our range of motion in our joints. Without consistent stretching, the muscles can shorten and become tight, so when you begin to use them, they’re weak and unable to extend, which puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage (1). But that’s not the only benefit of stretching, below we take an in depth look at the science behind stretching and why it’s so good for you.
There’s a reason you often see professional athletes stretching before a game, not only does it help improve your range of motion, it also helps to improve your performance. One study found that stretching before physical activity helps to prepare your muscles for it (2). It helps to improve your circulation and therefore make it easier for you to move during your activity.
Regular stretching has been shown to help strengthen the muscles and make them less susceptible to injury. “Stretching within a warm-up that includes additional post stretching dynamic activity is recommended for reducing muscle injuries and increasing joint range of motion,” says one systematic review (3). Stretching helps to strengthen both the muscles and the tendons, which helps to improve recovery time and reduce the chance of injury.
Bad posture is usually down to a muscle imbalance. “Imbalance limits the movement of the tendons and muscles and makes normal exercise and movement difficult. Additionally, incorrect posture can cause pain,” says one study that researched the effects of stretching on posture. They found that a combination of stretching and muscle strengthening in specific muscle groups can help rectify that imbalance, reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment (4).
Stress is awful for your back and neck. When you experience both physical and emotional stress, your muscles tend to respond and tighten in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Stretching those areas can help to mitigate these effects and if you focus on mindfulness and meditation while you stretch, it can give your mind a mental break. Regular stretching can help to keep your mind calm and focused. Including essential oils with this practice can enhance these effects and encourage your mind to calm even further. Not only will you be able to get the benefits of stretching, but also the physical and emotional benefits of essential oils.
Kinds of stretching
There are many different ways to stretch the body including dynamic, static, ballistic, PNF, passive, and active stretching. The most common of these are dynamic and static stretching. Static stretching is the act of holding a stretch for 10-30 seconds and is most beneficial for after exercise. Whereas dynamic stretches are active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but it’s not held. It’s most beneficial before exercise to get your muscles ready for the movement, think swimmers doing arm circles before their event.
In order to start a stretching routine, take it slow and make yourself as comfortable as possible, using essential oils to help remind you to do it every day. For a good stretch, try this quick morning routine from our friends at LuluLemon.