I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older, but lately, I’ve been having so many unnecessary body aches. I don’t have a perfect diet or a perfect workout regimen, but I shouldn’t be feeling this much pain either. I have consistent headaches, back aches, arm and leg aches and even my knees have been giving me more trouble lately.
Initially, I thought, I must be deficient in something. I need to take more vitamins. And that still may be true! But it didn’t occur to me until recently that there may be more at play. I wake up with stiff muscles everyday, and although I’m only 26, my body feels like it’s 58.
Why is stretching so important?
Here’s what Harvard Medical School had to say:
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 you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.Sept. 2013
A lot of people think of stretching as something that gymnasts or athletes do, but everyone should be doing it! It’s not enough to work out at your local gym and build muscle, but flexibility plays a key role in maintaining your physical health.
What are the benefits of stretching?
Too many to count! Stretching reduces muscle tension and increases range of movement in your joints. This was the struggle I was having—waking up tense every day. I got tired of having stiff muscles, so I decided to finally do something that I knew would help: stretch.
Stretching also enhances your muscular coordination, meaning that the next time you call on your muscles to participate in a strenuous activity (such as playing ball with your nephew), you won’t damage your joints from overexertion. Not to mention, stretching also helps circulate blood through your body, ultimately increasing your energy levels. Increased blood flow helps treat any discomfort you may be currently feeling from the lack of oxygen flowing through your body (i.e. the constant headaches I was having)!
Stretching is also known for stimulating joy, lowering your cholesterol, improving your posture and of course, making you more flexible. Need I go on?
How do I start stretching?
Nolan says you don’t have to stretch every single muscle you have.
“The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh.”
Stretching three to four times per week is a great start! You can also consult with a physical therapist who can assess your muscle strength and create a stretching program for you.
Hopefully, this post has made you think twice about stretching before and after a workout. What are some of your favorite stretches to do? What are some of the hardest? Let’s start a dialogue in the comments.