Stretching is a very effective and important activity that has a number of known key benefits for all. These benefits include improved flexibility, a decrease in the likelihood of injury and muscle soreness, and an enhancement in physical performance.
Through stretching, the affected muscles will be lengthened, which helps to improve the body’s normal level of flexibility as well as to reduce general muscle tension. This increase in muscle length will also enable the muscles to contract over a greater distance and hence create a greater level of power. The body is then able to move more freely with increased comfort.
After physical exercise, the muscles can often feel tight, sore or stiff. Such soreness occurs due to minute tears that form within the muscle fibres, as well as an accumulation of blood and waste products, such as lactic acid. Stretching after exercise, therefore, helps to diminish any muscle soreness through improved blood circulation and the removal of waste products.
Exercise also creates fatigue, and results in a decrease in both mental and physical performance. Stretching muscles can help to prevent fatigue by reducing the pressure on the working muscles. For every muscle, there is an opposing muscle, and if these are made more flexible through stretching then the working muscles have to exert less force against them. The movements of the working muscles will, therefore, require less effort, which will result in the enhancement of an individual’s physical performance.
Additional benefits of regular stretching include improvements in posture, body awareness, energy levels, coordination, and stress relief.
Stretching should be carried out before and after any physical activity, and as part of an individual’s daily routine. A typical stretching routine should last for around 5-10 minutes, with each muscle group being stretched 2 or 3 times. Each stretch should be performed gently and slowly, and held for around 20 seconds only to the point where tension is felt in the muscle. Only stretch muscles that are 100% healthy and avoid areas that are recovering from injury. Stretches should never be performed when the muscles are cold. Prior to any stretching, light, physical activity that results in a light sweat should be performed for about 10 minutes.