Whether you’re sitting at your desk all day or working out vigorously, one great way to avoid injuries is to increase your flexibility. It’s also an effective way to boost your health — physical and mental.
You can get a complete body stretch by dedicating a mere 15 minutes a day to it.
Personally, I body train every day and I consider my stretching to be just as important, if not more, than my actual weight lifting and cardio. There is a wide variety of stretching methods, but I prefer yoga because it is recommended for beginners.
Here are seven proven health benefits of increasing your flexibility:
1. Flexibility improves your balance
With modest flexibility training, you can increase your physical balance, making it far easier to maintain your balance for everyday actions like going to sit down, going for a walk or even standing up in general. In addition to common stretches, other ways to improve balance include standing on one leg, balancing on a wobbly board, walking heel to toe and doing squats. If you’re looking for some great balancing exercises to complement your stretching, check out this video from ACEfitness.
2. Prevents aches and pains
When we loosen tight muscles, it leads to fewer aches and pains, and benefits our posture. Common muscle pain is associated with microscopic tears in our body’s tissue. So when we stretch and feel pain, it most commonly means lactic acids and other waste products have accumulated in our muscles. That is why it is crucial not to overstretch because it can lead to cramps. Just go to the point that is most comfortable, while still feeling a good stretch in whatever position you’re in. Also, stretching will make it easier to have great posture. When we have good posture, it can really help eliminate problems associated with our backs.
3. Maximum range of motion
When we increase our range of motion, our joints benefit immensely. For example, when we stretch our Achilles tendon, our ankles are able to exert a more full range of motion, thus decreasing the chance of tendinitis. Also, when we have a full range of motion, the chances of sudden or gradual injury are greatly decreased because it will allow our bodies to extend in the most comfortable way possible.
Last year, I broke my tibia when running the bases in a softball game. I truly believe that I could have prevented this injury through better stretching of my hamstrings and calves.
4. Reduces stress
When we are stressed, it reduces our blood flow, creating muscle tension and knots. When we stretch, it increases our blood flow to muscles to ease tension, thus making us feel more relaxed. So, more blood being pumped into our muscles means more blood being pumped into our brain as well. This means we boost our mood when stretching.
5. Increased stamina
Due to the increased blood flow, we make it easier for our bodies to get the blood flowing efficiently, which increases our endurance. When we exercise, our bodies need every advantage they can get because oxygen and blood flow are crucial while working out.
6. Better sleep
When we sleep, our bodies can become rigid and stiff. When we stretch before and after we sleep, it will reduce tightness and cramping we may feel throughout the night. Also, since it reduces stress, it may help you fall asleep in the first place.
7. Strengthens muscles
When we stretch, it also helps strengthen our muscles. That being said, it shouldn’t replace your current strength and cardio routine, but it will certainly help. When we stretch, we are actually strengthening the muscle fibers, just on a far smaller scale than if we were doing traditional exercises like cardio or weightlifting.
— PJ Amirata