Let your body be your instrument. Use it wisely!
Whether you’ve noticed or not, stretchings are an irreplaceable part of our everyday routine. When we knead the body in the morning, do exercises, take out something from the top shelf or bend over to tie our shoelaces, each time we strain certain muscles. These simple and familiar movements are called body stretch.
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The need to stretch from time to time after a long stay in one position is caused by instincts inherent in all mammals. Scientifically speaking, stretchings1Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. (2002) Stretching. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia Retrieved from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/stretching are a series of movements that promote maintaining the muscles supple and increasing joint range of motion.
The nature of the stretching appears to be the one of the reasons why we feel better after practicing it, but not the only one. It is commonly performed by people without fitness education, fitness trainers, athletes, sportsmen, and everyone who cares about their health. So, what is so beneficial and pleasant about them at the same time?
Endorphin boost, or it’s better to say, endorphin release occurs during physical activity and gives us a feeling of joy.
Endorphins2V. J. Harber, J. R. Sutton. (2012, 30 September). Endorphins and Exercise. Sports Medicine. DOI:10.2165/00007256-198401020-00004 are chemicals generated by the neurological system to help people with stress and pain-management. Most of them accumulate in the hypothalamus, although the whole body is involved in their production. Stretchings start endorphin release3A. Grossman, J. R. Sutton. (1985, February). Endorphins: What are They? How are They Measured? What is Their Role in Exercise? Medicine and science in sports and exercise. PMID:6091217 via tension and relaxation of muscles.
So, as long as endorphins are stress relievers and the producers of happy emotions, each stretch helps us lift our mood and avoid depression.
My verdict: True. This feeling came gradually and energized me for several hours. Actually, I didn't feel pure enjoyment after stretching, but it definitely reduced stress.
Because of how stretchings are increasing blood flow and helping push the blood through your arteries, it is crucial to notice their beneficial impact on the whole process of blood circulation. Short-term improvements sometimes lead to long-term advantages for your vascular system4N. T. Kruse, B. W. Scheuermann (2017, 5 August). Cardiovascular Responses to Skeletal Muscle Stretching: "Stretching" the Truth or a New Exercise Paradigm for Cardiovascular Medicine? Sports Medicine. DOI:10.1007/s40279-017-0768-1.
My verdict: Not noticeable. It may be difficult to trace the effect of stretches on the circulatory system. Still, I didn’t pay attention to any significant differences in well-being. I managed to achieve more visible results performing complex workouts with different types of exercises.
Regular stretches effectively work for reducing muscular discomfort. They can help for tense joints and muscles, especially for people with a sedentary lifestyle. This is true since it not only helps to reduce muscular pain, but it also helps to promote muscle recovery. The benefits of physical activity and exercise should not be underestimated.
My verdict: True. I can sit at the computer for a long time during the working day. A few stretching breaks relieve muscle tension in less than 10 minutes.
Flexibility of your body is directly related to your ROM (Range of motion) indicator which, together with muscle performance, acutely increases during stretches. Passive stretching (with no rate change for a period of time) has the greatest results of changes in ﬂexibility while inducing lower force and power.
Thus, stretches aim to improve joint flexibility by lengthening musculotendinous and other elastic tissues5C. D. Lima, C. V. Ruas, D. Behm, et al. (2019, June). Acute Effects of Stretching on Flexibility and Performance: A Narrative Review. Journal of Science in Sport and Exercise. DOI:10.1007/s42978-019-0011-x across the joint for a short period of time (30–60 seconds).
My verdict: True. By nature, I have a fairly flexible body, but only thanks to stretching practices I manage to maintain it in this shape. Stretching makes my muscles more whippy and elastic.
Stretchings may also influence your parasympathetic activation. It stimulates the nervous system to cope with stress's psychological consequences. The state of relaxation and calmness may continue for up to 5 minutes after stretching.
Since a parasympathetic nerve-dominant state6T. Inami, T. Shimizu, R. Baba, et al. (2014, June). Acute Changes in Autonomic Nerve Activity during Passive Static Stretching. American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. DOI:10.12691/ajssm-2-4-9 is activated after the completion of stretches, and not during active stretching, it is best to use a passive form of stretching to achieve muscle relief.
My verdict: False. Talking about endorphins, I’ve already mentioned that stretchings are great stress relievers, and not only for 5 minutes. I was experiencing the feeling of relaxation for an hour or so after seated butterfly stretch and head-to-knee forward bend.
Due to endorphin release and stress relief functions stretches have a positive psychological impact in general. They improve the work of many body systems and increase the level of self-satisfaction. Therefore, daily exercises and stretching can improve your mental well-being more effectively than any medication.
My verdict: True. A long enough stretch is no worse than any meditation. After all, stretching also requires concentration and patience. I felt my head free from thoughts and focused on the pulling feeling in the muscles. This practice is very helpful in maintaining psychological balance throughout the day.
Studies7J. M. Hallegraeff, C. P. van der Schans, R. de Ruiter, et al. (2012, March). Stretching before sleep reduces the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults: a randomised trial. Journal of physiotherapy. DOI:10.1016/s1836-9553(12)70068-1 prove that healthy sleep is another important result of regular exercise. Equalization of sleep patterns occurs at the expense of endorphins release and a decrease in blood pressure. Just a few passive bedtime stretches will help you with deep sleep without nightmares.
My verdict: Not noticeable. After the evening workouts, I usually feel full of energy, which is not convenient for preparing your body for sleep. However, stretching is a softer type of exercise, with less stress. I didn’t feel a positive effect on my sleep patterns, but they didn’t do any harm either.
According to the research8D. Kim, M. Cho, Y. Park, et al. (2015, June). Effect of an Exercise Program for Posture Correction on Musculoskeletal Pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. DOI:10.1589/jpts.27.1791, body stretching also helps with posture correction and back pain. Just a few workout minutes a day can have a tangible effect. Strengthening the muscles of the back and core through stretching exercises helps achieve both a toned body and an ideal well-build posture.
My verdict: True. Stretches helped my muscles become more elastic. The long-term complex of stretchings on the back, shoulders and forearms is ideal if you want to correct your posture.
Fighting for skin beauty may definitely pose a challenge. That is why a lot of people start doing face exercises and stretches on an everyday basis. There is an undoubtful effect of regular stretching on the skin condition. It improves the elasticity of the skin and keeps it fresh and youthful for a long time.
My verdict: Not noticeable. I didn’t notice any difference in my skin condition, but it may be hard to observe, because of the experiment duration (1 week).
Seven studies9B. R. da Costa, E. R. Vieira. (2008, June). Stretching to Reduce Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Systematic Review. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. DOI:10.2340/16501977-0204 showed the effectiveness of stretching to prevent muscle compensation and musculoskeletal disorders.
Our body follows the learned movements and quickly adapts to new postures. That is why spending the day in one sitting position can create such severe discomfort even a few hours after changing the position. Sciatica and sore muscles are just signs of stretches’ deficit and a lack of mobility during the day.
My verdict: True. I often felt stiffness in my muscles before I started to stretch regularly. Now this problem has magically disappeared.
Back pain and hurt muscles can haunt you in all your affairs. They interfere with your concentration and distract you from work.
So, if you suffer from back pain, you need to know that stretchenings is the way to cope with this problem. As long as most back pains are caused by poor posture, all you have to do is to start increasing muscular tone to support the spine. Exercises on the core and ab muscles do the best with this task.
My verdict: True. In addition to muscle compensation, back pain may accompany the symptoms of a sedentary lifestyle. There is nothing better than preventive stretching on a yoga mat or any surface that is comfortable for your back.
If physical health is directly related to the workouts that we perform during the day, then mental health is indirectly related to our physical activity.
Physical activity is becoming increasingly popular as a way to preserve and improve mental health. According to the research10J. S. Raglin. (1990, July). Exercise and Mental Health. Beneficial and detrimental effects. Sports Medicine. DOI:10.2165/00007256-199009060-00001, it’s enough 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic activity to cheer up for several hours. Stretching is no exception. It's a great way to improve your well-being, mood state and self-esteem.
My verdict: True. Not only the endorphin release, but also the general attitude to improve your health, can significantly affect your wellbeing. Each time I did the stretching, I felt motivated for the whole day. I felt myself becoming stronger, more confident, and most importantly - a healthier person.
Probably, waking up in the morning, you noticed that your body is rather clumsy and cannot bend as easily as during the day. This effect appears due to the accumulation of fluids along the back and more relaxed muscles.
For this reason, when you wake up, stretching is extremely helpful. They start all the processes in the body and prepare you to run your business without any discomfort. To make the body elastic after sleep, you need to do just a few stretches. They will help to disperse the blood throughout the body and warm up the muscles.
Dedication to exercising just a few minutes a day can keep your time of fatigue, muscle pain, emotional and physical exhaustion. Here are some examples of home exercise stretches to try.
Of course, many of you are familiar with different types of exercises for body recomposition or losing weight. Remember that the greatest benefit is brought by light, but regular loads. Weight training is good for its purpose. Stretches, indeed, are suitable for any person and aim.
You can either pick several types of workouts to perform them in the morning, or build a whole training plan based on stretching exercises. For this, fitness or yoga is best suited.
What about stretching after exercise11M. Keil. (2019). Have We Been Stretching the Truth? The Effects of Stretching Post Exercise and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Iowa State University Capstones, Theses and Dissertations. Retrieved from https://dr.lib.iastate.edu/handle/20.500.12876/16739? This is another major reason not to reduce stretches. Besides avoiding joint strain, you decrease lactic acid when you decide not to have a break after exercises. Cool-down is not always the right choice.
Reducing lactic acid is needed to avoid the pain after workouts. When exercising, you produce it and cause sore muscles. Stretches instead help relieve unnecessary discomfort.
Working out often appears pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. This is why stretches can be your lifeline. They do not need special equipment and a gym. It is enough just to get out of bed in the morning and stretch your muscles right on your rug. They have tremendous benefits for the body, from starting all processes to relieving unnecessary stress.
No doubt, stretching is a direct road to endorphins and free happiness in a few minutes. They can make you emotionally resilient and mentally healthy. And only think about a well-established sleep regime!
Lastly, stretches often make it possible to dispense with treatment and surgery for problems with the musculoskeletal system. They make the body flexible and able to withstand any stress. Our advice is to stretch well and regularly!
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