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Why Stretching Is Important For Your Body

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 4/11/2018 Sadhana Bharanidharan
a person standing on top of a grass covered field: Stretching can act as a stress reliever by eliminating tension from various parts of the body. © Jacob Postuma/Unsplash Stretching can act as a stress reliever by eliminating tension from various parts of the body.

You don't need to be an athlete or a gym junkie in order to practice stretching. This simple form of exercise can be performed on a daily basis to ensure that your muscles are in a healthy condition.

Of course, stretching is best known as a part of the warm-up session preceding a workout. Experts note that you should not start with stretches first as your muscles are not warm enough, increasing the risk of injury. Instead, perform a small bout of physical activity such as a light jog or moving up and down the stairs.

Not working out today? Well, it is still not an excuse to skip stretching. In fact, it is more of a reason to do so, especially for those whose occupation involves sedentary behavior. So if you work at an office and spend most of the day sitting in front of the computer, it is highly recommended that you take breaks to stretch your legs and other parts of your body. 

Constant sitting can lead to rigid muscles and decrease your flexibility over time. So the "daily" should be underscored for emphasis as these effects can only be undone with regular stretching.

"It may have taken you many months to get tight muscles, so you're not going to be perfectly flexible after one or two sessions," says David Nolan, a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It takes weeks to months to get flexible, and you'll have to continue working on it to maintain it."

But the benefits of stretching are not limited to the muscles alone. It may serve as a tool for diabetes patients to maintain their glucose levels, according to findings from a 2011 study. 

After drinking a sugar beverage, diabetic participants who practiced stretching were found to have lower blood sugar levels than the participants who only performed "mock stretching" where they adopted similar positions but did not actually stretch their muscles.

Furthermore, stretching can act as a stress reliever by eliminating tension from various parts of the body. Stress not only affects you mentally but can also lead to a number of physical symptoms. As WebMD notes, tense muscles are among the possible symptoms which also include headaches, nausea, insomnia, and more.

The question also arises as to which parts of the body we should be stretching. Nolan says not every muscle needs attention, recommending that a few key ones be prioritized. "The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh," he explains.

Stretching even a few of these muscles for a short period can help improve blood circulation, energy levels, and help you recharge. So the next time you find yourself reaching for your third cup of coffee at work, try a few stretches instead and see if that helps.

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