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The Importance of Stretching

We all know that exercise is important and that it should be done regularly, but we often forget about the importance of stretching the body. 


Without regular stretching, our muscles shorten and become tight, impacting posture and increasing the risk of injury. Then, when we want the muscles to activate and work, they are weak and unable to fully extend. Here’s an example to think about, if you sit down for long periods of time everyday then your hamstring muscles (back of thigh) will shorten and become very tight.


The different types of stretching

Active stretching

  • Holding a pose and stretching the muscles whilst contracting its opposite muscle group without using external force.

Passive stretching

  • Excellent for improving your flexibility as you are holding a pose whilst the targeted muscle group is being lengthened. Hold for 30 seconds before increasing the stretch.

Dynamic stretching

  • Stretches that use momentum to repeat movements through their full range of motion.

PNF stretching

  • Promotes the restoration of a weakened/injured muscle as resistance is provided whilst keeping everything in place. The targeted muscle group is passively stretched and then contracted isometrically against an external force, whilst remaining in the stretched position.


Benefits of regular stretching

  • Improve blood pressure, arterial stiffness and vascular function in the body parts directly involved in passive stretching
  • Increases angiogenesis (formation of new blood cells) after passive stretching training
  • Reduces inflammation and improves subcutaneous tissue mobility
  • Used for the treatment and prevention of contractures
  • Increases joint range of motion
  • Enables the muscles to work more effectively
  • Increases blood flow to the muscles
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves posture


References


Bisconti, A., Cè, E., Longo, S., Venturelli, M., Coratella, G., Limonta, E., Doria, C., Rampichini, S. and Esposito, F., 2020. Evidence for improved systemic and local vascular function after long‐term passive static stretching training of the musculoskeletal system.


Harvard Health. The importance of stretching - Harvard Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching#:~:text=Stretching%20keeps%20the%20muscles%20flexible,to%20extend%20all%20the%20way.> 


Harvey, L., Katalinic, O., Herbert, R., Moseley, A., Lannin, N. and Schurr, K., n.d. Stretch for the treatment and prevention of contractures.


Langevin, H., Bishop, J., Maple, R., Badger, G. and Fox, J., n.d. Effect of Stretching on Thoracolumbar Fascia Injury and Movement Restriction in a Porcine Model.


Stretch Studio | Assisted Stretching | Stretch Zone. What are the Different Types of Stretching? - Stretch Studio | Assisted Stretching | Stretch Zone. [online] Available at: <https://www.stretchzone.com/blog-posts/table-stretching-forms/>