The benefits of proper stretching are both numerous and often overlooked. A few of the many reasons why engaging in a regular stretching routine will yield many healthy benefits are:
1. Allowing for much greater freedom of movement. This will pay dividends each and every day. Whether playing with your children or performing simple household tasks, your body will perform better with a more complete range of motion.
2. Improved posture through greater flexibility. Ever look in the mirror and catch yourself with that awful slouching shoulder position? By allowing the muscles to stretch you can improve your posture and, along with it, your sense of self esteem.
3. Increase your mental relaxation. The act of stretching itself often results in a reduction of the heart rate and a general calming effect on the body. Important in this process is to breathe. Breathe deep breaths into the muscles that are being stretched. This stretching and breathing pattern is a most relaxing way to calm the body, and the mind, down.
4. Stretching can release tension in the muscles and release muscle soreness. Again, when accompanied by deep muscle breathing a feeling of relaxation can be achieved.
5. Greatly reduce the risk of injury by adding this greater range of movement to your muscles, tendons, joints, etc.
Be sure to start with a warm up that will get the blood flowing to those cold muscles. A simple walk, accompanied by arms swinging in a wide circular motion can do the trick. Allow a minimum of 5-10 minutes to warm up.
Begin each stretch slowly. There are simply no extra points for speed. Remember to exhale deeply and gently as you stretch the muscle. Try to hold the stretch for a 10 to 30 second count. Or hold that stretch for a count of 5 deep breaths.
Do not bounce when you stretch as this will cause potential injury. Remember to take it slow and steady.
Do not stretch muscles that you have not warmed up. Again this is asking for potential injury. If warm up time has not been sufficient try stretching after a hot shower or in a hot tub. The water temperature should make the muscles more receptive to a stretch.
If it hurts, stop. That no pain, no gain adage has no place in this stretch plan.
Do not hold your breath. Breathe into the stretch and feel the muscle relax.