If you’re totally spent by midafternoon, a stretch break will invigorate you in less time than it would take for a barista to whip up your usual mocha venti skim latte. Just a few minutes of stretching increases blood flow through your entire body—including your brain, says Jennifer Warthan, a certified personal trainer in Surry, VA. “It wakes you up and helps you feel less sluggish.”
A recent study tested 42 college students to see whether stretchingwould impact how long they could stay on a contraption called a stabilometer. The students who stretched for 30 minutes beforehand were able to balance longer than those who sat quietly before they hopped aboard. Researchers think stretching could help with fine-muscle coordination—meaning those who stretched first might have been able to avoid a tumble by making small balance adjustments.
Regular stretching can relieve stiff muscles and creaky joints, but to reap those benefits, it’s important to stretch the correct way. “Avoid the static stretch, or ‘stretch and hold,'” says Michael Ross, MD, medical director for Rothman Institute Performance Lab. “Focus on mobility by doing range-of-motion exercises and soft tissue work with foam rollers.” Range-of-motion exercises include shoulder shrugs, wrist bends, and knee lifts—anything that keeps your muscles and joints moving through (you guessed it!) their full range of motion.
Unless you’re a yogi or a barre aficionado, flexibility may not seem like a huge priority. But regular stretching can help you achieve better form in just about any workout: “For something like a squat, it means you could get a deeper squat. Your knees and hip flexors will bend farther,” Warthan says. “You’ll get more out of the workout.”
The scientific evidence on this one is iffy, but incorporating stretching into your warm-up—never try to stretch cold muscles—might help your body get ready for exercise as well as switch your brain into “workout mode,” says Charles Drass, a certified personal trainer in Marlton, NJ. “Stretching can’t totally eliminate injury, but it could certainly help from a mindset perspective” by getting you more focused so you’re less likely to make an ouch-inducing misstep. Try a few minutes of dynamic stretching, like arm circles and lunges, before you really get going.
Exercise is well known for helping keep glucose levels in check, and it turns out that benefit might kick in even before you lace up your sneakers: A 2011 study of adults who had type 2 diabetes or were prediabetic found that those who stretched for 40 minutes after drinking a sugary beverage had lower blood sugar levels than those who did “mock stretching”— in other words, assumed the same positions but didn’t actually stretch their muscles.
Are your shoulders practically touching your ears? Is your back in knots? Stretching can help tame tension both physically and mentally, as it relieves tight muscles while tricking you into feeling more relaxed. (Try this 60-second fix for a sore neck.) Just don’t overdo it, especially if you’re wound pretty tight: “Stretching should never be forced,” Drass says. “You should be able to relax into a stretch. If you’re in pain, you’re doing it wrong.”
For more information, please click here:https://www.prevention.com/fitness/benefits-of-stretching-every-day/slide/7