Sitting at a desk hunched over a computer all day can be tough on the body, and most people need much more stretching than they’re actually getting. Taking any sort of fitness class also feels great, but nothing feels as good as that few minutes of stretching at the end. There’s an immediate feeling of tension release once you drop your weights and stretch your arms out.
If you are not stretching enough, taking a proper stretch class can have numerous benefits. In fact, just one of these classes a week can actually make you a better athlete. From yoga, to barre, to pilates, or even a restorative stretch-specific class, here are just a few of the health benefits you can look forward to.
This is probably the most obvious benefit of stretching. The idea of taking an entire stretch class can be intimidating to those that don’t feel flexible, but that’s exactly the point! Improved flexibility equates to an improved range of motion. When your range of motion is better, there is less of an energy expenditure to make the same exact movements that you were doing before. You may be a martial arts expert, but having flexible hamstrings will allow you to kick even higher, faster. Your spinning skills may be on point, but an improved range of motion in the hips will really get your legs working double-time.
Stretching the large muscle groups of the back requires just a few minutes of your time, but can have a profound impact on your daily life. Having great posture is not just aesthetically pleasing, it affects the muscle groups that literally support your entire frame. Tight muscles in your back will cause you to hunch your shoulders, whereas muscles that are long, lean and relaxed through stretching allows for better alignment of the entire body. Excelling in a workout class is a great benefit to stretching, but the ease of everyday life when you have great posture is much more important.
Decreased Risk Of Injury
Lactic acid buildup and tight, sore muscles can increase your risk of injury. Some folks may crave sore muscles the day after a great workout, but jumping right into another workout with tight or cramped muscles can leave you susceptible to sprains, stress fractures, or painful conditions like plantar fasciitis. Better posture and range of motion also makes for better balance, so you’re likely to fall and injure yourself less than someone who doesn’t stretch.
We all know that lower stress levels have amazing benefits on heart and mental health. People who are stressed have tight, tense muscles, which stretching can immediately alleviate. We also tend to carry our stress in specific muscle groups, like the back and the IT Bands. Try picking a recovery-based stretch class where foam rollers are a focus, and literally roll your stresses away.
Stretching improves blood flow to your muscles, which can help increase your performance in other fitness classes. Increased blood flow and range of motion makes all the muscles in the body work better, and can even shorten your recovery time between workouts. Increased blood supply also means more nutrients flowing into your muscles, quite literally giving your muscles the food that they need to perform. Better blood flow, lubricated joints and relaxed muscles are all key ingredients to becoming a better athlete. Try incorporating a yoga class into your routine, as you’ll stretch all the major muscle groups, as well as some smaller muscle groups you may not have been aware of.