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Stretching is one of the most common fitness activities. Many people stretch in the gym, and athletes of all kinds stretch on the playing field or court. You may simply stretch when you get out of bed in the morning or when you take a break at work. There's a consensus that stretching feels good, though not everyone can say why. Stretching has both physical and mental benefits.
Stretching, particularly as people become older, helps increase flexibility -- moving your joints through a complete range of motion. That, in turn, relieves muscle pain and stiffness and can enhance your physical performance, whether you're playing a sport or simply walking somewhere. From a medical standpoint, stretching breaks up what are known as chemical crossbridges. These are made of two proteins that create tension in the muscle. Stretching the muscle to the end of its range of motion breaks those crossbridges and reduces tension.
Increased Blood Supply
Muscles that are inactive, particularly those in the legs, have less blood supply than muscles in other parts of the body. If circulation decreases to a muscle, waste products tend to accumulate in it. By stretching, you compress the muscle and raise the blood pressure in veins that remove waste products. Fresh blood comes into the muscle, bringing with it proteins and other nutrients. The overall effect is a greater sense of well-being.
Stretching is a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Slow, focused stretching also can lower your blood pressure and breathing rate, according to the University of California's "Berkeley Wellness Letter." It's also an inherent part of deep muscle relaxation in which you stretch different muscles in turn and then relax. That helps release tension from your body and calm your brain. You can work your face, neck, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, wrists and hands. For each area, stretch for a few seconds, relax and repeat a few more times. Britain's National Health Service recommends that you lie quietly after the stretches, keeping your eyes closed. When you feel at ease, stretch your entire body and stand up slowlyвЂ¦
Stretching makes you feel good in many other ways besides physical and mental relaxation. Some become evident quickly; others have long-range effects. Stretching can help you become more aware of your whole body -- in essence, it's a mechanism for you to listen more closely to your body and take necessary steps to improve fitness. Stretching can reduce muscle soreness and muscle tension and reduce the chance of injury to muscles, joints and tendons. It can improve your posture, and it also can ease severe pain of menstruation in women, according to the Saint Vincent Health System.