We all are quite familiar with the benefits that daily exercise and physical activity have on our health, however stretching is often less emphasised and even overlooked. In fact, many studies have concluded that stretching is just as important and should be incorporated into daily exercise activities to improve overall body functioning, increase confidence, improve balance, enhance athletic performance and manage pain for sciatica suffers for sciatica suffers. Here are just a few ways stretching can improve your overall health!
Back pain is a common ailment experienced by many individuals. In fact, it is estimated that anywhere between 70-80% of the Australian population will suffer from lower back pain in particular at some point during their lives. Having a poor posture from slouching in office chairs for hours on end or standing incorrectly can essentially be contributing to back pain by straining the muscles in the back and placing stress on the spine.
However, daily routine stretching can actually help improve posture and therefore alleviate pain in the back and throughout the body by correctly aligning the body. At Spinal and Sports, our dedicated chiropractors and physiotherapists at Castle Hill, Parramatta and Wetherill Park, can help to determine your posture and assist in the identification of any spinal misalignments. A tailored and personalised stretching regime may be included in an overall treatment plan to improve posture and adjust the body to a correct and normal alignment.
Help Blood Flow
Blood circulation is a highly important function in the body and is responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles, organs and brain. When our blood flow is poor and does not adequately flow throughout the body, it is not uncommon to feel tired and lethargic, experience a feeling of heavy legs, or even have dull looking skin. In order to improve blood flow and ensure oxygen is being transported effectively throughout the body, stretching can be vital. A common yoga pose, downward dog, is an excellent stretch into boost circulation around the entire body.
Manage Headaches, Stress and Anxiety
When we experience stress or chronic anxiety, the body releases hormones that often result in muscle tension. This muscle tension can often cause headaches and other unwanted pain throughout the body. To relieve the body of this tension and to feel more relaxed, stretching helps to lengthen and elongate muscles.
Furthermore, when holding a pose or stretch, many individuals tend to practice deep breathing to stretch further and more efficiently. A study conducted by Harvard researchers proved that deep breathing alleviates the body of stress and promotes relaxation by reducing or stabilising blood pressure and inducing a sense of calmness.
Enhances Athletic Performance
Regularly stretching can even help improve athletic performance or make the most of your time in the gym. Traditionally, most athletes incorporate some form of stretching into their training and recovery regimes with evidence supporting its use for optimal strength and endurance and to positively affect volume and repetitions.
However, it important to be aware of the types of stretching you should do if you’re partaking in exercise. When we participate in sport or activities in the gym, our muscles tend to shorten. While the common static stretch or the “stretch-and-hold” method definitely helps elongate the muscles when performed regularly, these stretches should be reserved to your post-workout routine rather than used for warm-ups. However, some studies show that static stretching can actually decrease muscle power for at least 5 minutes and can last up to 3 hours. Evidently, if you’re about to participate in a rigorous and competitive sport that requires fast and forceful movements, this can do more harm than good.
In saying that, studies show dynamic stretching (stretching with movement) has shown to be the best form of stretching to be used as a pre-workout ritual and warm up. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism in 2015 shows that dynamic stretching is ideal as it prepares the body for similar movements that will be performed during exercise (e.g. leg swings before running). Meanwhile, the same study also suggests that dynamic stretching helps increase core temperature which helps increase nerve conduction velocity, muscle compliance and enzymatic cycling, which in turn enhances energy production for maximised performance.
Furthermore, the study also found that dynamic stretching actually helps increase central drive as opposed to static stretching which can decrease central drive. Decreased central drive results in fatigue or the inability to maximise endurance and can take the form of pain and discomfort. Therefore, as endurance involves an element of skill, and dynamic stretching helps improve endurance and the ability to exercise our best for longer, it is important to incorporate skills based dynamic stretching (such as leg swings before running) as a warm up to help improve sports-related performance.
There is much discussion and debate surrounding the role of stretching and its ability to prevent injuries. While some medical research has determined that a pre-game or pre-exercise stretching ritual has little effect on the injury prevention, other studies suggest that habitual stretching improves range of motion in the joints for safe joint mobility and function. It’s this improved and proper range of motion and that can assist in the prevention of injuries. For example, imagine that the joints around the knee and the muscles supporting it are tight and are lacking the full range of movement. It is possible that during a game of soccer, for example, an athlete may kick the ball with great force and hyperextend the joint beyond their current range of movement, resulting in an injury or pain of some sort. Thus, regular stretching to increase the range of movement in the joints and muscle will allow for optimal movement during exercise.
There are many benefits of incorporating stretching into your daily routine. At Spinal and Sports, we offer a range ofphysiotherapy and chiropractic treatment in Castle Hill, Wetherill Park and Parramatta locations. We also have a range of knowledgeable sports chiropractors and physiotherapists, specialising in treating athletic individuals. To discuss how stretching can benefit you or to learn effective stretches that can help manage any condition you may be facing, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment on (02) 9683 1110.