Stretching may provide a variety of benefits. People can perform stretches anywhere and at any time. Doing so regularly may help increase flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
Historical evidence suggests that people have practiced stretching for thousands of years — especially warriors, who would stretch before a battle.
Performing stretches regularly may help reduce stress and body pain, increase flexibility, and improve posture, alongside other benefits.
In this article, we examine nine benefits of stretching. We also assess the risks of overstretching and provide tips for stretching safely and effectively.
Stretching may help improve mental and physical health and could be beneficial in the following ways:
1. Increases range of motion
Regular stretching may improve a person’s ability to move a joint through its full range of motion, allowing for more freedom of movement and greater comfort and efficiency in physical activities.
Static stretching involves stretching a muscle and then holding the stretch, whereas dynamic stretching involves gradually increasing the range of motion with each stretch. Research indicates that both static stretching and dynamic stretching may help extend the range of motion, improving performance by alleviating stiffness and increasing muscle strength.
2. Expands flexibility
Stretching can often help a person improve their flexibility, which is beneficial to their overall health.
Better flexibility allows a person to move more comfortably and perform everyday tasks more easily. It may also help delay the effects of aging, such as reduced mobility, on the joints and muscles.
3. Helps with back pain
Back pain, especially in the lower back, is common, and it can decrease a person’s range of motion. Stretching may help a person alleviate lower back pain. In addition, it may improve their range of motion, which might help prevent future back pain.
4. Improves mood and focus
Research suggests that stretching may improve mood and cognitive performance, helping people feel calmer and more focused on tasks. Even individuals with low levels of physical activity can experience these improvements from stretching.
5. Improves physical performance
Regular stretching may help a person perform better in physical activities, as it helps prepare the muscles for movement and improves flexibility and range of motion.
6. Relieves tension headaches
Stretching the neck and upper back can be
7. Increases blood flow
Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, which boosts oxygen levels and increases the number of nutrients that reach the muscles. Stretching may also help remove metabolic waste, such as uric acid, carbon dioxide, and ammonia.
8. Relieves stress
Stress can cause the muscles to tighten and become tense, leading to pain, especially in the neck, shoulders, back, and head. Stretching can help loosen muscles that have tightened in response to stress and help the body recover from stress.
9. Improves posture
Imbalances in muscles could lead to poor posture and discourage proper alignment in the body. Research indicates that regular stretching may help strengthen the affected muscle groups, encourage alignment, and improve posture.
A person should feel a slight pull in their muscle when stretching correctly, and it should feel tense. However, if a person feels pain, they may be overstretching and pushing beyond their body’s capabilities.
Overstretching can lead to an injury, presenting as a strain or a sprain.
A strain can occur if a person overstretches or overexerts a tendon or muscle. A sprain results from overstretching or tearing a ligament.
Stretching may be more straightforward for people who regularly exercise and stretch. Individuals new to stretching exercises may have a higher risk of injuring themselves.
Regardless of physical ability, a person can reduce their risk of injury while stretching by:
- Avoiding overstretching: A person should not push far past their comfort level during a stretch, as a stretch should never be painful. If a person feels pain while stretching, they should lessen the tension in that muscle to avoid injury.
- Limiting the amount of stretching: Stretching the same muscle groups too regularly, such as more than once a day, may put undue stress on those muscles. A person should stretch different groups of muscles at different times to avoid causing damage.
- Avoiding bouncing: Stretches that include bouncing, such as ballistic stretching, may not be safe unless a trained professional has advised someone to perform them. Bouncing stretches could cause damage to the ligaments and tendons.
- Warming up first: Muscles are cold and unpliable before exercising, making stretching more difficult. A person may find stretching easier and safer after a workout or a short warmup involving light cardiovascular exercise.
It may not always be safe for a person to stretch. A person should only stretch according to their doctor’s recommendations if they have:
- a chronic or long lasting injury
- an existing or acute injury
- a disability or condition that may prevent them from performing a stretch correctly and safely
Stretching has several health benefits, and it may help people perform better mentally and physically.
The benefits of stretching include:
- increasing the range of motion
- expanding flexibility
- easing back pain
- improving mood and focus
- improving physical performance
- relieving tension headaches
- increasing blood flow
- relieving stress
- improving posture
A person should avoid overstretching, which will feel painful rather than slightly pulled and tense. Overstretching could lead to a strain or sprain injury, which may cause long-term problems.
A person should also avoid stretching their muscles too far, stretching the same muscles too often, and bouncing while stretching. It is essential to warm up before stretching to prevent injuries.