Why is stretching important?

Athletic therapist Jocelyn Dowling explains seven benefits

Whether it be from Mom, Dad or Coach, we have always been told that stretching is important – but we are never really told why. Jocelyn Dowling, Mount Allison’s head athletic therapist, has the answers to why it can be so beneficial.

“Stretching encompasses a lot of pros, from reducing the risk of injury to improving blood flow,” said Dowling. Although it is often overlooked, flexibility is an essential component of living a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few reasons to why you should start stretching today.

1. Decreases muscle soreness and stiffness before and after activity: stretching eases the build-up of lactic acid, which reduces the body’s soreness and can shorten recovery time. Stiffness felt in your muscles and joints prior to and following physical activity can be reduced by consistent stretching.

2. Improves muscle coordination: stretching strengthens the process of teaching the body to work and use its muscles more efficiently. This can enhance athletic performance with respect to agility, power and speed.

3. Increases range of motion: stretching muscles can enhance the movement of the major joints in the body, such as shoulders and hips. This leads to improvements in exercise form.

4. Reduces stress: regularly stretching improves blood flow, opening up all the channels and creating a greater nutrient transportation from head to toe. Increased blood flow relaxes the body and reduces stress.

5. Aids in injury prevention: muscles that are more flexible are less likely to become injured if you make a sudden movement. Stretching increases the range of motion, decreasing the impact caused during activity.

6. Improves posture: stretching daily can enhance the alignment of your back, shoulders and chest.

7. Enriches quality of life: consistently stretching will continually better the range of motion of your body. It effectively increases your longevity as you are minimizing the wear and tear on your joints.

“The benefits can vary vastly between being broad and being specific to a need,” said Dowling. The many benefits of stretching include both mental and physical aspects, which confirms we should all devote time to it.

Now that we know why it’s good to stretch, it is important to know how to go about it. Stretching can take a variety of forms, from your casual stretches before going for a run to taking a yoga class.

“As a general rule for how to stretch and when, always remember warm and dynamic before, calm and cool after,” said Dowling. “If you are stretching before an activity as a warm-up it should be dynamic and your body temperature should be rising. If you are stretching after an activity or not even combined with a workout, you should be more stationary with nice long stretches meant to relax and lengthen your muscles.”

Hamza Munawar