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Why You Should Stretch?

Stretching. For many women it’s an afterthought, something you might do after you’re done with other, more important exercise, if you remember or have time, which is usually never. Increasingly, however, scientists are finding that for health, well-being, and quality of life, flexibility should move off the back burner and to the forefront of our minds.

In a recent study, Japanese researchers asked more than 500 women and men ages 20 to 83 to perform a “sit and reach” test, where they sit with legs extended and tried to touch their toes. They then examined their arteries for arterial stiffness, often a precursor to high blood pressure and heart disease. Turns out that after age 40, there’s a strong correlation between rigid muscles and stiff arteries. Specifically, those who had poor flexibility also had significantly stiffer artieries than their more limber peers.

Other studies have linked poor flexibility to high blood sugar, which increases diabetes risk, as well as greater risk for metabolic syndrome — another risk factor for heart disease.

Stretching is very important in beginning and ending an exercise. But its functions go beyond preventing strains and sprains. So why stretch?

# Stretching before beginning an exercise prevents injuries. It helps the muscles “warm-up” and prepare before divulging into more intense exercises. It helps prevent “pulled muscles”. It allows a longer range of motion. For instance, if you are going to do a strong punch without stretching, you will ‘shock’ your relaxed muscles into motion, thus it will cause pain and soreness.

# Stretching promotes better breathing and respiratory (or oxygen) flow. Stretching allows oxygen to flow better through your body and it also helps better blood circulation. Body pains and sores usually root from increased tightness and tension from the lack of oxygen that flows to the different parts of your body. Stretching allows the oxygen to move freely and move better.

# Stretching improves flexibility. When you constantly stretch, you are also making yourself more flexible, thus activities that require flexibility, such dancing and kicks, short sprints and dashes, even basic tasks such as lifting and tying your shoe, can become easier. Flexibility also wanes s people ages, so it’s best to regularly stretch so that you can maintain your flexibility.

# Stretching reduces stress and improves posture. Stress causes the muscles to tighten and knot, thus it can cause strain and back pains. Tension causes negative effects on your body. Muscles harden and slow down the flow of the oxygen (carried by the blood) to the brain which muddles thinking. Stretching brings back the oxygen flow and regulates it, re-oxygenating the brain and also the heart.

# Stretch after exercising. Lactic acid builds up in your muscles while you exercise which leads to fatigue and soreness. This can be remedied by “cooling down” exercises or post-exercise stretching. Post-exercise stretching can help in workout recovery, decreases muscle soreness that comes after the workout and ensures that your muscles and tendons are in good working order. If you stretch after exercising, you are conditioning your muscles, and, in a way, you are relaxing your muscles after a vigorous regimen.