5 Benefits of A Good Stretch And How To Get Them

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Published: April 14, 2014

Fitness

Stretching happens naturally.  It is so instinctive that you may not even notice yourself doing it.  But, if you focus on what you do all day, you will find that you stretch a lot more than you realise.  It starts first thing in the morning, as you step out of bed and most people do not stop stretching until they fall back into the same bed later in the day.

People stretch because it feels good.  It relaxes our muscles, which are often tense as a result of our stressful lives.  Athletes also stretch before activity to warm those same muscles so that they are not unnaturally jilted into action.

Stretching seems to be relegated to the bottom of the fitness list unless covered with labels like pilates or yoga.  But, there are plenty of benefits to incorporating stretching into your daily life, whatever you choose to call it.

The Benefits of Stretching

  • Improved Flexibility – Your muscles naturally shorten and tighten over time.  It is a natural part of aging, but it does not mean that you want it to happen.  Generally the goal is to remain in peak physical condition, which means retaining muscular flexibility.  Not only does flexibility enable you to get more from every workout, it also reduces the chance that you will injure yourself while doing so.
  • Increased Circulation – Every organ and tissue in your body is fed by nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood.  Better blood flow means better supply of these essential elements to every part of your body, and that spells better health.  It has been proven that stretching increases blood flow, and with more oxygen reaching your muscles, the less sore they are – or will become after exercise.
  • Better Range of Motion – You may consider yourself clumsy, and simply more accident prone, but stretching may be one way to prevent that.  As you lengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility, you also increase your range of motion.  As your joints become accustomed to wider (and more subtle) motions, your balance improves, as does your energy to get up and go.
  • Stress Relief – Stress creeps into your body physically, just as powerfully as it does mentally.  In addition to time spent hunched over your phone or computer, stress will cause your muscles to contract.  Stretching relieves the pain associated with muscle tension.  And, if you do enough of it in a session, you will also release endorphins which make you feel great about yourself.
  • Pain and Posture Improvements – Whether you suffer from lower back pain, or tensed shoulders, these troubles may be indicative of poor posture. Millions of women endure these ailments, deeming them natural based on their prevalence.  But, stretching can alleviate this pain and improve your posture over time.  Your body will not only feel better, but it will look better too.

So, pick a benefit that motivates you and work stretching into your daily life.  It is a great introduction to exercise if you have never really taken up a fitness routine.  A few minutes a day will make you feel radiant on the inside and out.

Ready to Stretch?

Looking for a few basic stretches to get you going?  Why not try some of these muscle-relieving movements right now?

Biceps Stretch – Stand with your arms down at your side.  With your palms facing your thighs, extend your arms backwards.  Keeping your arms straight, link your fingers together and continue to lift your arms behind you.  Gently push as far as you comfortably can, hold this position for about 30 seconds, and then slowly release to the starting position.  Repeat this stretch another 3 to 4 times, or as long as it remains comfortable.

Quad Stretch – Stand tall with your feet about hip width apart.  Transfer your weight to your right foot, as you bend your left knee to bring that foot up to your glutes, holding it in place with one or both hands.  Keep your thighs and knees in line with each other and increase the stretch.  Try to maintain this stretch for about 30 seconds; if you find it difficult to hold this position for that long, then start small and work up to a longer period.  You’ll want to do this stretch twice for each leg for best results.  Tip: hold on to the wall or a chair if you need a little help with your balance.

Cat Stretch – If you have ever seen a cat stretch, you’ll know exactly what this is meant to look like.  Get down on your hands and knees, keeping your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.  Imagine a string is tied around your waist, pulling it up towards the ceiling.  Let your head fall between your arms as you stretch.  Then, imagine the string is pulling you towards the ground, curving your back in the opposite direction and elongating your neck.  This stretch is designed to release a lot of tension throughout many different areas of your body.  Hold each position here for as long as is comfortable, and repeat each movement as many times as possible for up to 3 minutes.

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About Radiant Health

Radiant is a bi-annual print and digital health magazine dedicated to the discerning African woman and her journey to wellness through health, beauty and culture. Available in stores (see stockists) and online. Ships worldwide. Subscribe to our newsletter and get a free digital copy of issue No.06.

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