The Value of Stretching
Most of us grudgingly agree that stretching is good for us. As in:
- I know I really ought to stretch more.
- It just doesn’t seem to fit it in.
Maybe by reading this you will see how essential and really valuable stretching is. You might make a little more effort to “fit it in.”
What are the benefits?
Of course it increases flexibility and range of motion. It decreases the risk of injury because a longer more fluid muscle is less apt to tear when rapidly stretched during exercise or other physical activity. Stretching increases fluid flow to muscles and the fascial material that surrounds and is an integral part of muscles. Greater fluid flow, including blood and lymph, supplies increased nutrients and carries away more waste product thereby increasing performance of the muscles. Stretching has been shown to relieve stress, calming the mind. Studies have proven that the way our bodies feel affects the way our minds feel as much as our minds affect our bodies. So what can happen is that a loop of positive feeling can result from stretching, body and mind supporting one another. Those are the positive effects of stretching and might in themselves induce you to find the time.
What are the negative effects of not stretching?
Looking above we can deduce that we get a decreased range of motion and flexibility and an increased risk of injury. Decreased fluid flow means a slower exchange of nutrients for waste product, which can lead to achy muscles and a tendency to move less because it hurts. Tight, shortened and tense muscles can have an effect on the mind such that we can become less calm and more stressed. So here is the loop now working in the opposite direction, reinforcing an achy, tense, stressed feeling, rather than a calm, spacious feeling.
Another negative to not stretching is that it is much harder to regain flexibility once we have lost it than to simply maintain it. And as we age it is even harder. Remember the mind body connection? Now think about aging in a body that is becoming increasingly more restricted. It can be a major effort to simply get out of bed, much less feel vibrant and excited about life. Not doom and gloom but the simple truth that we have the power and the responsibility to keep our bodies as mobile as possible for as long as possible so that we can enjoy life more!
At Asheville Therapeutic Massage stretching is an integral part of our work do both on the table and in knowing which at home exercises to give in order to promote longer lasting positive effects. Check out our website to book a session, look at other blogs, or to simply find out more about the role massage can play in your healthy lifestyle!
Next week: Not All Stretches Are Created Equal!