If you are like me, you absolutely hate to stretch.  For years I neglected this aspect of my health.  I was naturally tight, and I didn’t care.  Stretching was downright painful at times.

However, it wasn’t until I learned of all the benefits of stretching that I began incorporating it into my routine.  Many fitness experts have been quoted as saying if they could only choose one form of exercise, stretching would be it.  They say this for good reason, as you will see below.

Stretching can reverse the hardening of arteries

Years of studies show that extended stretching (i.e. YOGA) with a moderate aerobic exercise routine combined with a controlled diet will decrease cholesterol and noticeably reverse hardening of the arteries (up to 20%) in adults with heart disease.  After just one year of yoga, many subjects not only realized tremendous weight loss, but saw a decreased cholesterol number as well as improved general exercise ability.

Increased circulation of the blood to various parts of the body

Stretching really opens up our capillaries and allows blood to flow to our limbs.  This will help reduce muscle tension, range of motion in joints, and give us enhanced muscular coordination.  We will indirectly realize greater energy levels as a result of all this extra blood flowing to our limbs.

Helps prevent against injury

Stretching before an athletic event or training routine is a great way to help avoid injury.  If you approach aerobic exercise with a cold body, you are just asking for disaster to happen.  While you may have been able to do this in your teens and 20’s, the older you get, the more susceptible you are to injury.  Stretching will gently warm the muscles, ligaments, and tendons up.  This will put you in a better position to avoid injury from sudden, jerky movements.  Keep in mind however, stretching directly before an event or weight lifting workout is not the best idea.  Contrary to popular belief, prolonged stretching actually slows muscle activation.  Strength is decreased for up to one hour after stretching by temporarily impairing muscle activation.  (Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantar flexors, 2000, Fowles).


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