Most of us go through our days thinking of the obvious things we need to do and accomplish, such as going to work, taking care of our families, paying our bills and making time to have fun and decompress. With so much to do, taking care of our bodies’ health can fall by the wayside, yet our bodies carry us through all of these tasks so maintaining them in great health is of the utmost importance. We often equate physical fitness with going to the gym, doing intense cardio workouts, hiking and biking, and other aerobic activities and strength training. Stretching exercises and workouts designed to help promote and maintain flexibility are often neglected but are no less important!
The human body is meant to be active so movement of any kind is vitally important, which means not just cardio or strength training, but stretching as well. As we age, it becomes clear that the more flexible we are, the better. By incorporating regular stretching, blood flow in the body is increased and this will naturally help to reduce stress, in turn promoting better sleep. Excess stress in the body left unmanaged can lead to just as many health problems as being overweight or smoking, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stomach or digestive issues. Regular stretching also increases joint synovial fluid which helps the body to transport nutrients more effectively to joints, leading to less pain and greater flexibility. Range of motion is improved and this, in turn, helps prevent future injury.
If you spend a lot of your day sitting, either because of a desk job or because you have a long commute, developing a routine that includes flexibility is even more essential. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can gradually lead to lower back pain, but stretching daily will help to ameliorate this. If you are also incorporating other types of exercise into your routine (as I hope you are for overall wellness), stretching will aid in reducing pain and soreness after more vigorous workouts. Your range of motion will increase. Simply by elongating certain muscles in the farthest position you can without pain and then holding for 10-15 seconds, you will make the muscle more flexible and limber. In turn, you help to preempt lingering soreness from working out, as well as prevent injury.
Improved flexibility also leads to better posture, meaning you are less likely to have back pain and carpal tunnel. You will also find that your breathing is improved; you experience increased concentration and focus, and feel more confident.
Physical fitness is vital for overall wellness. Without a healthy body, you cannot hope to have a healthy mind because physical ailments will hold you back from doing what you love. Stretching and flexibility exercises help to reduce stress, prevent physical injury, improve circulation, and delivers vital nutrients to your joints. Your body is there for you and working every second to keep you alive and healthy, so show it some love in return!