When many people awake, they are tired and stiff due to clenching muscles while sleeping. Stretching may bring relief because this deliberate muscle lengthening increases the range of motion in joints and the flexibility of muscles. It is an important component of an exercise routine but even non-athletes can reap the benefits of stretching when they awake each morning.
Top Benefits of Stretching
The Mayo Clinic lists increased flexibility and range of motion as two of the major benefits of a good stretch. When muscles are flexible, it is easier to bend, lift, and move quickly. Though flexibility diminishes with age, stretching helps to regain it. Stretching also improves circulation by increasing blood flow to muscles. This flow removes waste byproducts and delivers nourishment to muscle tissue. For people with muscle injuries, improved circulation can shorten recovery times.
Stretching in the morning and throughout the day can prevent muscles from tightening so proper posture can be maintained. Good posture minimizes aches and pains, making work, school, and play more pleasant. Relaxing tight muscles also helps to relieve stress, which often causes muscles to become tense. Stretching can even enhance coordination by keeping the body in better balance. This is particularly important for older people because balance and coordination increase mobility and reduce the risk of injury from falling.
Reaping the Benefits of Stretching
Practicing proper stretching techniques helps to avoid injury. Begin by walking and pumping arms gently to warm muscles. Follow with gentle stretching, holding each stretch for between 30 and 60 seconds. A stretch held for at least 30 seconds may need to be performed only once. Do not bounce while stretching because this can tear muscles, leaving scar tissue that tightens the muscle even more.
If a stretch causes pain, it is too intense, so release until it is no longer painful and hold the it for at least 30 seconds. Focus on breathing while stretching and stretch both sides of the body to equalize range of motion in joints. In addition to stretching each morning, do some light stretching after a workout warm-up and more comprehensive stretching after a workout.
Proper morning stretching promotes muscle and joint flexibility, stimulates the senses, and prepares for physical activity of the day. Approximately ten minutes of stretching each morning will improve physical health over the lifetime. It is fun and feels good so add it to the daily routine and reap the many benefits.