Stretch Benefits

The Benefits of Stretching for Health and Fitness
There’s that word, stretch. It can be uncomfortable, sometimes it can even hurt if done improperly. So many of us dread it for the physical discomfort or the mental boredom. I was a believer in those things too. You see, a long time ago, while recovering from my knee surgery, I failed to heed my physician’s advice on stretching. In fact, I failed to follow his advice on a number of things. What I didn’t realize at the time was not only would stretching have aided in a speedy recovery, it would also have improved my abilities in a variety of activities.

Some basic benefits of stretching:

Increased flexibility - The most obvious benefit. In general, when you lengthen your muscles on a consistent basis, they remain longer. This is of particular importance if you have less flexibility than that which is considered normal, a typical side effect of trauma such as surgery (and whatever led to the surgery).

Increased strength - Who are the most flexible athletes in the summer olympics? Gymnasts. Who are the second most flexible? Olympic lifters. With greater flexibility and proper technique, you can produce more force over a greater range of motion (ROM).

Increased endurance - If a muscle is more flexible, it takes less effort for it to contract and relax over a period of time.

Even with all of this information, I still found stretching to be uncomfortable. So, I decided to take up yoga. Yoga is fantastic because it teaches you to focus on breathing deeply and rhythmically while giving yourself an incredible stretch. Having an instructor to keep me focused on form was key too. After taking enough classes from yoga or, might I add, a fitness professional, you’ll be able to handle self stretching much better.

On the note of fitness professionals, getting stretched by one takes things up another notch - you can then focus on breathing and relaxing into the stretch, thus facilitating good results!

Between yoga classes and my professional education, I now stretch all the time and find it quite enjoyable. I find it even better to get stretched by another professional. I can just lie back, relax and receive the benefits. My knee now has very good flexibility, my running has tremendously improved and I’ve become much stronger than I look. The beauty of this is anyone can receive these benefits, so why shouldn’t you?