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  • Writer's pictureHeather

Why We Should Be Stretching Every Day

Going all the way back to my initial physical education classes, seems like a hundred years ago, I remember being taught the three aspects of staying fit. Unfortunately, we are a species known for cutting corners and focusing on results. That is, what can we brag about with our fellow activity participants.

The three aspects of fitness are strength, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. While it is easy to boast of our personal best in bench press or running a 5k, it’s difficult to get much mileage out of bragging about the stretchiness we enjoy in our hamstrings. No less challenging is looking in the mirror and admiring our loose tendons and ligaments. Thus, we tend to stick to how much we can lift and how fast we can run.

Age has a way of forcing us to spend more time on what we have learned to ignore. Stretching is one of those beneficial activities that advancing in age will force us to give more attention. We will be far ahead if we start a diligent stretching regime today and continue to follow it to our sunset. To put it simply – stretching must happen on a regular basis, it should be daily. And everyone with a heartbeat should be stretching.

Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when we call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts us at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it harder to extend our leg or straighten our knee all the way, which inhibits walking. Likewise, when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis or golfing, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched.

Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible. This makes it much less likely to injure ourselves with any type of activity or exertion. Some benefits of stretching are:

  • Increase range of motion in joints - Being able to move a joint through its full range of motion gives us more freedom of movement. Stretching on a regular basis can help increase our range of motion.

  • Increase blood flow to muscles and joints - Improved circulation increases blood flow to our muscles and joints. This can shorten our recovery time and reduce muscle soreness following activity.

  • Reduces the risk of injury – Stretching prepares our muscles, tendons, and joints for activity. This preparation also allows our body to recruit more muscles into a movement to allow better balance and more strength.

  • Can pinpoint imbalances in our support structure – Stretching on a regular basis can reveal imbalances in muscle tension and joint range of motion. When one side is tighter than the other, or one joint moves easier than the same joint on the opposite side, we know we must focus attention on balancing those structures. Imbalances from side-to-side lead to injuries.

Stretching has tremendous cumulative benefits. Stretching once today won't magically give us perfect flexibility. We need to do it over time and remain committed to the process. It may have taken many months, or years, to get tight muscles. We will not be perfectly flexible after one or two sessions. Allow ourselves time; weeks and months, to regain flexibility. Then work to maintain that flexibility.

Stretching is not an activity reserved for gymnasts, weightlifters, or serious athletes. We can all benefit greatly from making stretching a daily activity.


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