Stretching is both a relaxing and rejuvenating activity that can help you unwind and release tension after a stressful day, or help increase your energy levels during times of fatigue. Incorporating stretching into your regular fitness routine provides a number of additional benefits that can help improve your overall physical and mental well-being.
What type of stretches can you perform?
You can perform a variety of different types of stretches based on your specific needs and goals. Stretches fall into two main categories — dynamic stretches, which involve movement, or static, meaning you hold the stretch steadily without movement. Static stretches are generally held for a period of around 30 seconds to allow the target muscle to relax and lengthen. Dynamic stretches involve controlled movements, for example, trunk twists, that are performed to the limit of your range of motion, with the idea that gradually challenging your range of motion will result in improvements. Certain forms of exercise, such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, focus on a combination of dynamic and static stretches.
General benefits of stretching
Although there are mixed opinions among experts about the exact benefits of stretching, most agree that stretching after your workout can help prevent injury and increase flexibility. Stretching exercises can help you relax, release muscle tension and perhaps even increase your energy level. According to certified fitness instructor and personal trainer LaReine Chabut in her book, “Stretching for Dummies,” stretching helps you use energy more efficiently, since a contracted muscle requires more energy to move than a relaxed muscle. Stretching increases circulation of blood and oxygen to your muscles, which can help improve energy levels, increase vitality and well-being and encourage waste removal from your tissues.
Stretch to boost your energy
If you haven’t had a great night’s sleep or you’re feeling a bit fatigued during the day, stretching exercises can help you feel a renewed sense of energy and invigoration. Both dynamic and static stretches can provide benefits. The seated forward bend is one of the most beneficial static stretches for activating your energy reserves, according to nutrition counselor, shiatsu practitioner and yoga instructor Max Well in an interview with Martha Stewart’s Whole Living website. Other stretches that can help include dynamic and static qigong, tai chi and yoga stretches that focus on promoting the flow of energy in your upper and lower body.
Consult your doctor before beginning a stretching routine, especially if you are new to exercise or have an injury or physical condition that may affect your ability to perform the exercises. While stretching may help improve your energy levels, it’s also important to follow a healthy lifestyle that includes adequate amounts of sleep and proper nutrition to ensure that your body is functioning at an optimal level. Stretching should never cause pain. Do not stretch beyond your current level of flexibility or force a stretch. With time, persistence and patience, your body will be able to more easily perform the exercises and your range of motion will gradually begin to improve.