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Benefits of stretching exercises for health and fitness

Updated on April 17, 2018
Miebakagh57 profile image

Miebakagh57 has been a civil servant for 34 years, seven months. Jogging is a core exercise in my service days. I am also a food enthusiast.

Introduction: stretching before and after a workout

Stretching exercises are recommended for every physical workout. Before you exercise, jog or play games, stretch your muscles. After an exercise or jogging session, stretch your muscles.

What is a stretching exercise? Stretching is a technique that improves the flexibility of the muscles, joints, and bones. Moreover, it enables greater agility of the muscles and bones at natural angles. Stretching elongates muscles and also increases the elasticity of the muscles.

Stretching the leg muscles and the heart for example, before jogging benefits you more in that you feel more relax in the muscles during the run. You are full of energy and strength.

The next time before you do your jumping-jack, press-ups and down and the plank or any plyometrics and isometrics exercises, stretch your muscles.

Stretching before a physical work-out

I am doing an isometrics stretch
I am doing an isometrics stretch | Source

Pre-caution

Stretching exercises are to be given special care.

1. Stretch slowly and relax.

2. Do not force yourself to do a stretch.

3. It will bounce back and you get injured on your muscles.

4. Stretch only to the point of mild tension.

5. If you feel a pain, stop.

6. Always breath in and out at every stretch.

Hold a stretch for a minimum of 20 to 30 seconds. 60 seconds is optimal for senior citizens. A respite of 10 seconds is okay.


Thought for foods

Before you stretch, think of a simple nutrition. Consider the immediate energy needs of the muscles. Active muscles love simple sugars like glucose and fructose.

  • Suck an orange or two; or drink real orange juice, or substitute these for your favorites fruits and juices.
  • Eating dried dates will greatly improve your muscle strength due to its mineral and vitamin contents.
  • Drink a glass of sugarcane juice or chew the sugarcane. Sugarcane juice will provide you with enough energy.

But never eat a heavy meal unless you are on a vigorous exercise.

If you eat, wait 2 hours before the stretching and exercise session.

After stretching and exercise sliced a lime or lemon into a glass of water and sip slowly. Eat a balanced high protein meal.

16 Benefits of stretching exercises

Stretching exercises will benefit you in many ways. Let's sum up the many benefits. Then, you can make up your mind whether to stretch or not before and after your workouts or games.

  1. It will prepare your body well by raising the heart rate and body temperature.
  2. Many rewards like the release of muscular tension, coordination, balance, flexibility, and elongation of body muscles are deliver
  3. Stretching exercises are physical exertions that prepare the body for physical exercise and physical activities
  4. Stretching exercises will tone the muscles, bones, nerves, cartilages, and ligament and at the same time prevent or reduced internal injuries when done moderately.
  5. Gaining good health, fitness, strong bones and tendons is the result of all these.
  6. Frees joints and increase the range of movement, ROM in the joints.
  7. Less pain in the joint, leg and back muscles.
  8. Released synovial fluids to lubricate the joints; and reduced stress and adds a restful sleep in the night or day.
  9. Transport blood and food nutrients to joints, bones, ligaments, and muscles; and makes bones strong and eliminates osteoporosis.
  10. It improves performances of physical exercises and physical activities
  11. Chances of joint, bone and muscle injuries are reduced.
  12. Improved balance and posture especially during middle age and in older persons.
  13. It is a very good shortcut to doing physical exercises if you are short on time.
  14. Stretching exercises help prevent cardiovascular diseases and increased the lifespan.
  15. Prevent or rather relief arthritis pain.
  16. As an exercise regime, prevent depression and improve mental health.

Are you aerobic fit before stretching?

"Aerobic (or cardiovascular) fitness is one of the most important components of overall physical fitness.

It reflects the amount of oxygen in the blood pumped by the heart and transported to the working muscles,

as well as the muscles efficiency in using that oxygen.

When you're working hard, your body's metabolism increases. When faced with increasing energy demands, your body eventually reaches a limit for oxygen consumption..."

This is why deep breathing exercises before stretching helps.

Statics isometrics stretch

Statics isometrics low plank that improves the core
Statics isometrics low plank that improves the core | Source

The beauty of stretching exercises


Again, what is a stretching exercise? Stretching exercise can only be explained in terms of physical exercise. The range of movement within each joint is vital for peak operation and efficiency of the muscles. If your knee joint is rigid, you will have a hard time walking and standing. And, this would be with arthritis pains. Let's say the stiffness is in the neck. You cannot turn your head to the left or right at 90o. You cannot look over your shoulder with ease. This is because the various muscles in the neck or leg are connected to joints and bones. The hips and waist are not left out in the issue. When all these coordination is lost, stiffness and pains are the results.

So flexible stretching exercises will help lose the various hardness in the joints, muscles, and bones. The result is good natural health and fitness.

So stretch your body muscles. Two or three times in the week for younger persons. 5 minutes daily for the elderly. The muscles become elongated and flexible. You can stretch daily for 10 minutes if you do not want to do a physical exercise. Your joints become loosen and there is an increase in the range of movement from 30 to 100 degree.

In addition, stretching exercises can help prevent the many heart-related illnesses. Such diseases include high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. Stretching can control body mass index and cholesterol level.


Modern scholastic studies on stretching exercises

Many study and research have been done on stretching exercises. Some undertaken by individuals. Others by accredited institutions. All these studies have one thing in common: the effect of stretching workouts on age groups or health-related illness like injuries, pains, and aches.

This article targets such challenges.

  • One specific study, Australia 00S target all workers in a call center. It was found that of the 60 workers, 70% report for pain and aches. After a stretching exercise program, the pains reduced.
  • Another study from the United States and the United Kingdom agreed that stretching workouts greatly reduce injuries, pains, and other illness. As a result, stretching programs during breaks were introduced in the work site.
  • In all, moderate stretching of 15 to 30 seconds improves trunk, knee, hip, shoulder and ankle joints.
  • Warming up coupled with stretching increased flexibility of the ankle, hip and knee joints.
  • The study, Cochrane Review is noteworthy. It comprised 12 studies. The latest and largest has 2377 participants out of which 1220 undertaken stretching exercises. The result before and after stretching helps reduced soreness to some degree from a day to a week.
  • Another study, The Benefit Of Stretching, courtesy of the Occupational Health & Safety reduces injuries greatly in the workplace. This makes stretching a regular event with all its workforces.

All the above studies target 'keyboard' operators. These are sedentary workers like computer operators.

The illness identify are back pains, muscle and soft tissue injuries (sprains and strains) and repetitive strain injuries (RSI). These account for 60% of the health hazards.


Wall push stretch

Wall push stretchs the back and arm muscles
Wall push stretchs the back and arm muscles | Source

Other types of workers

But what about workers like bricklayers, woodworkers, mechanics, welders, and teachers? Those usually move about in doing their jobs

Or what about people who do not stretch but engaged in some form of games? Football, tennis, volleyball, golf, and basketball players?

These skills were not taken into consideration in those studies. From my experience and that of others, the first time you begin exercising without stretching. you will be injured.

Any job like writing articles and stories, if you do not stretch can produce pains, aches, and injuries to the neck, back, and waist.

But the issues are lessened or prevented in persons who regularly taken on stretching exercises.


Be cardio fit before doing stretching work-outs

"Cardio exercise is any exercise that raises your heart rate. Face it our bodies were made to move. And we all know that to keep our muscles in shape we need to move them. This movement makes them stronger and stronger muscles make for a more efficient and healthy body."

What would happen if you do not want to use your brains again? How could you think right? The same thing applies to stretching the limbs muscles. Or they will lose elasticity.

Stretching exercises

Stretching exercises are nothing more than flexibility exercises.

Its importance lies in giving the body more freedom to move at any natural angle. Some men approaching middle age are unable to wear pants, boxer or trousers standing. I recalled my father and other elderly men doing this past 50 years when I was just a boy. It is common for many men.

As you age, the body can lose its muscle elasticity and thus freedom of movement in the joints. Sitting in a chair, you may find it hard to bend down and tie your shoe because the back or backbone is stiff. Putting key into a keyhole and turning it is a challenge. In effect, it means the body has lost its elasticity.

All these and many other signs of unable to do minor social activities is a signal of muscle atrophy.

A study done on men age between 18 and 40 years noted that reduced elasticity or muscle atrophy which is common among middle-aged men and women should not prevent the elderly to take on stretching exercises.

With the proper advice and techniques like warming ups, walking, and medical advice, light stretching can be done for 5 minutes daily.

As a beginner, stretch two times in the week, and later increase it to three.


A squat stretches the extensors and flexors of the legs

Squat stretch
Squat stretch | Source

My experience teaches me a good lesson

Let me share a specific experience here. It was night time and I am about to cross a major road. A motorcyclist ran into me and hit me hard on the right side of my thigh. Lucky for me, I did not sustain any physical injuries. I hobble over the road and cross over.

But I was unable to walk later. I gave my thigh some massaging with an anointment and took the next bus home.

The next day, my right leg got swollen and I called to see a doctor at my University Of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Nigeria. Prescriptions in the form of vitamin C, B-complex, and an anti-inflation drug call Cataflam were made available for me.

Although I receive some relief, the pains in the thigh continued and spread to my right arm. I was advised to go for massaging which did not help. The pain carried on for ten months.

Then I took to stretching workouts, exercising and jogging regularly in spite of the pains. That solved the challenge. Now, I have been without those pains the past 13 years.

Going to the hospital in the first place is good. It is the right thing.

Nowadays, some highly reputed hospitals, like the Mayo Clinic (United States) are including stretching workouts as part of a healthy program. Exercises in the form of stretching are medicine. It can be made a prescription for treating ill-health.

The study done by the Occupational Health and Safety noted the reduction of many health hazards from workers who took part in a stretching workout. All these points to the fact that stretching sessions can keep one fit, healthily and strong.

Mountain climbing exercises are flexible

Source

Jogging for strength and fitness

Source

The challenges of stretching

Before and after you stretch, it is likely that you have a sore muscle. Or it may be that the soreness occurred when you overdo it.

Have you had such experiences like a neck, shoulder, and back pain? Did you suffer sprain and strains doing flexibility stretching exercises? Did it happen after the stretching workout?

Say you have a fall during the workout, what type of treatment did you choose to treat the trauma? Or what is your preferred method of treatment or approach to the issue?

It is good that you share few or some of your feelings with others as an inspiration to promote fitness, health and well being.

What do you think

Have you suffer from a fall or back ache?

See results

Isometrics high plank stretch that builds your upper body

Isometrics  high plank stretching
Isometrics high plank stretching | Source

Flexible stretching exercise for the body

Dynamic stretching exercises

Stretching exercises varied. Dynamic stretching has the better advantage over the others.

One feature is the freedom of movement in the muscles and joints.

They also give you the ability to carry on daily physical activities like wearing your clothes, tying your shoes and necktie, and turning a key in the keyhole.

They help you reach the object on a shelf. Flexible dynamic stretching exercises will stretch the neck and upper body; will stretch the shoulder and arm; will stretch the chest, back, and ankle; and will stretch the thigh, hip, and calf.

In addition, it created balance when you rightly stand on one leg for 30 to 60 seconds; and then the other. Balance can be further realized by brisk walking.

They are these randomized controlled study. The specific effects of balance and gait exercises on the frail elderly person, set at a geriatric clinic in Japan. One leg stand test and functional reach test among other 5 exercises were assessed for balancing before and after stretching exercises for 40 minutes 2-3 times in a week.

The result shows that the one leg stand test is much better for balance than the others.

The table below compared the subject further.

Dynamic stretching

Workouts
Balance
Flexibility
Stretching
Yes
Yes, and varied
Aerobic
Yes
Yes
Anaerobic
Yes
Yes, limited
Plyometrics
Yes
Various and complicated
Stretching Exercises Compared

One leg stand creates balance

One leg stand
One leg stand | Source

"A study done in 2001 amongst 60 healthy people (mean age 84.7, SD=5.6) with tight hamstrings compared stretching of the hamstrings held for 15, 30 and 60 seconds over a 6 week period.

The results of this study indicated that a sixty-second stretch was more effective than a thirty-second stretch within this group of elderly individuals. Previous studies with a younger population suggested that a sixty-second stretch was just as effective as a thirty-second stretch."

7 Stretching exercises for computer geeks and sedentary workers

Do 3 or 5 repetitions of the stretchs and take 10 seconds respite for each.

  1. Thigh stretch: stand straight on the floor or ground. Walk from one point and back to the starting point with your toes. This will stretch the calf and the inner thigh.
  2. Hand stretch: you can sit or stand to do it. Hold out your hands in front of you. Open and close your fingers repeatedly. Strengthen the fingers and hands.
  3. Neck stretch #1: stand with your hands by your side. Turn your head to one side at 90o and return the head to the starting position after 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side at the same angle of 90o for 30 seconds.
  4. Neck stretch #2: with the same position as in #1 above, tilt your head sideways towards the right shoulder and hold for 30 seconds and return the head to the starting position. Tilt the head on the opposite side for another 30 seconds.
  5. Neck stretch #3: still with the same starting position as the above two neck stretches, this time you tilt the head forward to stretch back of neck for 30 seconds; and release it.
  6. Shoulders, middle back, arms, hands, fingers, and wrists: interlaced your fingers and stretch out your arm just parallel to your head. The palms should be turn out and hold for 30 seconds.
  7. Middle of the backstretch: standing with your hands on your hips, twists your torso at the waist at the right side for 30 seconds; return to starting position and do so on the left side for another 30 seconds. Your knees should be kept slightly flexed.

Recovery

After stretching do some recovery.

  • Walk 10 yards and back.
  • Jog for 5 minutes.
  • Do some dynamic exercises: push-ups and down, jumping-jack, straight leg kick, and knee to chest.
  • Swim.

Seniors citizens should stretch daily for 5 or 10 minutes.

Stretching daily is what is good for a senior past 40 years. How long does it take such a one to stretch? You need just 5 -10 minutes for simple work-outs. If a senior does not stretch daily, all the body muscles will begin to degenerate. A balance between extensors and flexors will not be achieved and properly coordinate. The result will be bad posture, round back, and walking while bending forward.

Seniors need only 60 seconds to hold a stretch, for example, one-leg stands to maintain balance and coordination.

Seniors should maintain flexibility always

When one aged, mobility in the joints and muscles reduces. Hence, with loss of flexibility comes a reduction in daily activities.

But research studies have pointed out that when persons improved flexibility, their way of life also improves. If a senior does not stretch daily to maintain the flexibility of the muscles, they are the very like hood that range of motion in the joints and muscles will soon come to a state of inactivity or a reduction.

For this reason, taking a short brisk walk daily is suggested. Couple this with deep breathing always.

Sitting long without stretching can wreck your back

Sitting long without a stretch
Sitting long without a stretch | Source

Concluding: stretching is necessary before exercise and playing games.

Do some exercise and jogging sessions without stretching for a week. Take one week break. Stretch and do the same exercises for a week. At what point do you think pains occurred?

You should test the challenge yourself and see.

My conclusion is that pains occurred without stretching and if you overdo the stretches and exercises.

Static isometrics stretch

Isometrics low plank builds the core
Isometrics low plank builds the core | Source

© 2018 Miebakagh Fiberesima

I have put in my best in this story. Any good suggestion is welcomed. However, the story will do no one good without applying the tricks. Thank you.

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    • Miebakagh57 profile image
      Author

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 5 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      If you do not stretch daily, you are asking for trouble for your body. Animals stretch daily. Their do it waking up from sleep or slumber. their doit before relaxing. Their do it returning from a hunt. Their made it an habit before anything else.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image
      Author

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 5 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      If you do not stretch daily, you are asking for trouble for your body. Animals stretch daily. Their do it waking up from sleep or slumber. their doit before relaxing. Their do it returning from a hunt. Their made it an habit before anything else.

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