Why Does Stretching Work?
Everyone’s been subjected to the mantra of gym coaches and fitness gurus that stretching is a virtual cure-all for muscle injury. In fact, if you listened to all the advice out there on stretching, you’d be stretching after you wake-up, before workouts, after workouts, while you’re watching TV, before you go to bed and probably any other time you’re not really doing much else.
Many of us probably have some sort of stretching routine we love, but for those of us who are tired of the inundation of stretching advice and have become skeptics, here’s why stretching works.
- Increased blood flow According to Mayoclinic.com, stretching actually increases the blood flow to muscles. Blood is the medium your body uses to take nutrients, such as oxygen, to the muscles; therefore, increased blood flow will improve muscle performance.
Improved blood flow also helps your body recover from an injury to your muscles more effectively. Even better, increased blood flow will reduce the likelihood of developing injuries in the first place. Furthermore, the improved circulation can protect against a host of illnesses, such as diabetes and kidney disease.
- Repairing scarred tissue When you stretch the overlap between units that make up your muscle fibers (these basic units of contraction are called sarcomeres) decreases. Once your muscle is fully elongated, any additional force is placed on the surrounding connective tissue. This connective tissue is forced to align parallel to the direction of your stretch, therefore parallel to your sarcomeres.
When your connective tissue aligns with the muscle fibers, it forces any disorganized fibers to realign, therefore rehabilitating scarred tissue back to health, according to web.mit.edu.
- Stretching improves potential for muscle development As mentioned previously, when you stretch, all your muscle fibers have the potential to expand to their maximum length, including the tendons that attach muscles to your bones. “The longer these fibers are, the more you can increase the muscle in size when you do your strength training,” David Geier, director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, told CNN in an interview.
Stretches that will deliver optimal results vary between individuals, but be sure to stretch every day, even if you’re not planning on exercising.
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