The benefits of stretching are the subject of numerous articles, studies and discussions. While many of us believe that stretching is very good for us and that we should include it in our workout sessions, we may have the wrong idea of what the real benefits of doing stretches are. In fact, what many of us believe is totally unfounded.
Are you wasting your time doing stretching exercises? In this post I reveal the answer once and for all… Let’s talk about the commonly accepted benefits of stretching and see whether they really are or not:
Stretching Helps Reduce Risk Of Injury – Myth
This is something most people were told repeatedly by Phys. Ed. teachers and personal trainers. This is why most of us actually perform stretching before a workout. We feel that we’re making our workout safer by doing so.
However, the research doesn’t support this theory. For the most part, stretching does not prevent workout injury. The studies which examined this issue found little correlation between the lack of performance of stretching and the occurrence of sport injuries. In fact, in one study, it was found that being too flexible may actually increase risk of injury.
Stretching may help protect against very specific injuries, especially if a person is predisposed to them. However, for most of us, it seems like it offers scant protection.
Stretching Helps To Relieve Sore Muscles – Myth
One of the nasty side-effects of working out is muscle soreness. It seems like your body is rebelling against you and the fact that you made it do some work. For years, we’ve been told that stretching will help prevent muscle soreness or keep it to a low level.
This also seems to be a myth. As reported by WebMD, Australian researchers who examined a number of studies on stretching found that there is no foundation for the belief that stretching can alleviate or prevent muscle soreness. This is the case whether you do stretching before or after you exercise.
In fact, the difference in the amount of soreness you’re likely to feel did not exceed 1%. Not really a significant difference.
Stretching Helps Prevent and Alleviate Muscle Cramps – Fact
I used to suffer from the most painful muscle cramps at night. I would wake up and feel one of my calves spasm so hard it took a lot to not scream out in agony.
It was due to these cramps that I began to do stretching, although I don’t do as much as I used to. I no longer experience these cramps.
It seems that one of the real benefits of stretching is the prevention of these painful cramps. As the Better Health Channel states, incorporating stretching into your fitness routine may help prevent muscle cramps, along with drinking more water, becoming fitter, and various other factors. WebMD supports this view and recommends stretching before exercise to prevent them.
If you suffer from muscle cramps, do more stretches for the afflicted muscles and you may find quick relief.
Improve Flexibility and Range of Motion – Fact
This is probably something you already knew: if you do more stretching you will be more flexible. In some cases, this will just make you feel good, being able to touch your toes or something like that. However, as you get older, this can become a bigger thing and have a major effect on the quality of your life.
Doing the simpler things in life, such as tying your shoes or reaching a high shelf, becomes harder as you age, and stretching can help retain those abilities.
Better Balance and Posture - Fact
Stretching helps to improve coordination, balance, and posture. This may help you look better and taller, and may also help reduce muscle aches and discomfort.
As you get older and your balance becomes shaky, stretching may also be useful to keep you steady on your feet. This can save you from some nasty falls.
Improved Circulation – Fact
Stretching may be useful to help you recover between workout sessions by improving circulation to your muscles. A particular form of stretching called fascial stretching may also be useful for muscle building purposes.
Improve Fitness Performance – Myth
Most of us probably believe that one of the benefits of stretching is that it helps to improve your physical performance. However, it seems that this may have the exact opposite effect.
As research done in the University of Las Vegas has found, stretching may actually weaken muscles in various high-performance activities such as running. It seems as if static stretching, when you hold the stretch for 30 seconds or so, actually makes the muscles lose some of their “spring” making them temporarily weaker. This may actually reduce performance.
Alleviates Back Pain – Fact
People who suffer from back pain may find that stretching needs to be part of their treatment plan. However, you need to consult with a physical therapist to get the specific stretches that you need to do. You can’t do it alone.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety – Fact
Stretching helps to release tense muscles which often become so due to stress. In addition, much like Yoga, stretching allows you to peacefully connect with your body, center your thoughts, and lower stress.
Wrapping Up the Benefits Of Stretching
The biggest benefits of stretching are believed to be injury prevention, reducing muscle soreness, and improving physical capability. On all these 3, the research shows that stretching falls short. It is simply not that effective.
However, stretching does have other benefits which include:
- Stress relief.
- Release of muscle cramps.
- Improvement in posture, range of motion, and balance.
- Reduction of various muscular pains.
In addition, you may also just like doing stretches. In that case, I see no reason to stop. It will probably won’t do harm.
Do you do stretches? When, before or after your workouts?