According to current guidance from the American College of Sports Medicine and Harvard Medical School, we need to move more. In fact, they recommend doing flexibility exercises for each of the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body at least twice a week. In this article, we will look at the benefits of stretching on both the mind and body.
There are a numbers of reasons why you may have reduced muscle and joint flexibility. Some of the most common include: too much sitting while working; the result of playing sport, and getting older. In order to keep muscles strong, flexible and healthy, we need to maintain a range of movement in our joints. Without this flexibility, muscles shorten and become tight. As a result of this, when you then call on the muscles for activity, they become weak and are unable to extend fully.
What are the benefits of stretching?
Stretching is a controlled and deliberate lengthening of muscles and fascia, to increase muscle flexibility and improve the range of motion in our joints. Some of the benefits of stretching include the following:
- Improved muscle flexibility and joint mobility.
- Improved blood circulation: increasing oxygen and removing waste from our muscles.
- Better posture: reducing tightness in the postural muscles improves our postural alignment.
- Reduces risk of injury.
- Improves performance in daily life and sport.
- Reduces stress: calms the mind while stretching, particularly when focusing on mindfulness and meditation.
Ways of improving flexibility
One way of discovering the benefits of stretching is by doing an exercise class. Here at Yoga Mama, we run a variety of health and fitness courses and classes in conjunction with our colleagues at The Putney Clinic of Physical Therapy. One of these is Pure Stretch, a 4-5 week course led by Cherie Lathey that is suitable for all levels of experience. Another good way of improving flexibility and mobility is through Gentle Pilates. This class is especially suitable for those who are returning to exercise following injury or after a lengthy break.