Why You Should Add Stretching To Your Daily Routine

Dear Friend,

In a world that increasingly values health and well-being, the pursuit of an active lifestyle has become paramount. Engaging in regular physical activity offers a myriad of benefits, from boosting physical fitness to enhancing mental clarity and overall happiness. But within this quest for an active life, there exists a vital component that often gets overlooked—stretching.

Often relegated to a brief pre or post-workout routine, stretching is much more than just a warm-up or cool-down exercise. It is a foundational pillar that supports and elevates every aspect of an active lifestyle. Whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or simply someone seeking a healthier life, get ready to discover how stretching can transform your fitness journey and unlock the full potential of your physical and mental well-being.

A Basic Guide to Stretching 👏
Let’s start by making sure we are on the same page about two important terms here—flexibility and mobility. While these two words are commonly used interchangeably in discussions about stretching, the truth is that they mean two different things, and it’s important to understand the difference. With that, let’s define both of these terms.

Flexibility refers to the ability of your muscles and soft tissues to lengthen and stretch passively while mobility refers to the ability of your joints to actively move through a range of motion. While the flexibility of your muscles plays a role in your mobility, there are other factors that come into play with mobility as well, including things like how much the joint itself moves and your level of motor control. Needless to say, both are important to your overall health and well-being.

Stretching is defined as “a physical exercise that requires putting a body part in a certain position that’ll serve in the lengthening and elongation of the muscle or muscle group and thus enhance its flexibility and elasticity.” In more simple terms, stretching is a type of exercise that helps lengthen muscles to improve both flexibility and mobility. As an exercise, stretching can be broken up into a few different categories:
1. Static Stretching 🙃
As the name suggests, these types of stretches are static in nature, meaning they are done at a slow, controlled pace. Static stretching involves putting different parts of your body into comfortable positions that help lengthen your muscles without a large amount of force.
When it comes to static stretching, there are two types of stretches you can do—active-static or passive-static.
    • Active-static stretches involve engaging in static stretches by yourself, without any assistance or external force.
    • Passive-static stretches involve engaging in stretches with the help of some kind of assistance or external force, such as a partner, a stretching accessory like an elastic band, or even just gravity.

2. Dynamic Stretching 😜
Dynamic stretching involves lengthening your muscles with controlled movements. The movements used in dynamic stretching are repetitive and are intended to help you progressively and gradually increase your range of motion.
It’s important not to confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching, though. While both types of stretching involve movement, ballistic stretches incorporate a bouncing or pulsing motion to the end of what would otherwise be a static stretch in an effort to extend the targeted muscle groups as far as possible. While ballistic stretching is a technique often used by serious athletes, it’s not recommended for most people as it carries an increased risk of injuring your muscles.
3. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) 👯
This is, for the most part, a two-person activity that involves muscle contraction followed by relaxation performed in short bursts of time. One example of this type of stretching is when a muscle is held in a stretching position by a partner. The partner can then provide light resistance as you contract your muscles for a few seconds before once again relaxing them, allowing your partner to push you into a slightly deeper stretch. PNF is often used to help enhance muscle tone and relaxation.

Benefits of Stretching 💃
With all of that out of the way, let’s get into the information you are really here for the various ways stretching can help enhance your health and well-being.

1. Boosts Flexibilityn🤰
By incorporating regular stretching sessions into your routine, you can initiate the process of elongating muscle fibers and tendons, gradually coaxing your body to become more flexible.
2. Increases Blood Flow Around the Body 🩸
Stretching is one of the many ways you can intentionally move your body, which is always beneficial for circulation and blood flow. This will allow blood to flow more easily to your muscles and brain, which can also help speed up recovery time as well as help combat soreness after a workout.
3. Reduces Muscle Soreness 💪
Speaking of muscle soreness, stretching is great for reducing it. Because of the increased blood flow that comes with stretching, these gentle exercises are great for helping to flush out your muscles after a workout, which allows the recovery process to initiate more quickly. While stretching won’t prevent muscle soreness or stop muscle pain in its tracks, it can be an effective way to help minimize the discomfort.   
4. Increases Range of Motion 🤸
Dynamic and PNF stretching in particular are great for helping to increase your range of motion. This is because these types of stretches gently push your muscles to their limit, helping to decrease stiffness and elongate your muscles, which are both key to improving your range of motion.
5. Combats Stress 😩
Stress comes in many forms and it can often manifest itself as muscle tightness. A few minutes a day of stretching can relieve the stress-related tension your body holds onto. Plus, as a form of gentle exercise, stretching can increase the levels of serotonin levels in your body, which can make it easier to regulate your mood and manage your own stress levels.

Let’s Get Stretching 🙆
Have we convinced you to add stretching to your daily routine? If so, then here are a few tips to help you get started.

Make it a daily habit. Try and stretch different muscle groups daily for between 30 and 60 seconds each. You can either set dedicated time aside each day for some stretching or you can work it into your busy schedule by incorporating it into other activities like watching TV, listening to a podcast, or enjoying your daily walk around the park.

Add it to your workout. If you already have a workout routine in place, then you need to make sure it includes some type of stretching. Adding different types of stretches to your pre and post-workout routines is a great way to enhance your workouts and support your body’s natural recovery process.

Warm up first. When your muscles are ‘cold’ or inactive, you will be uncomfortable when you try stretching. Do some light activity before engaging in stretching exercises, like a short walk.

Avoid bouncing. The last thing you want to do when stretching is to injure yourself. Minimize the risk of doing more harm than good by avoiding the bouncing or pulsing motions that are associated with ballistic stretching.

Don’t overdo it. It can be tempting to push your joints and muscles to their limit or stretch the same groups of muscles for a long period of time or multiple times a day, but none of those things are advisable. In fact, stretching too far or too much can actually cause muscle tightness and discomfort. So do a little at a time and stay tuned into your body so you know when it’s time to stop.

Sending You Tons of Love and Humongous Hugs,

Tina “Stretching It Out” McDermott