Stretching has more benefits than you think

Stretching is a bit like meditation: everyone has the tools to do it, but it takes dedication and some technical know-how to get the most from the practice. Most of us associate stretching with loosening our muscles before exercise to curb injuries, but the benefits go beyond feeling limber. “When things get tight in your body, other parts start to compensate,” says Kayla Alpen, a Sydney-based personal trainer and co-owner of Stretch Studios in the city’s east. “So stretching is bringing that cohesion back into your body so that you can move and function more efficiently, regardless of exercise.”

The best part is, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to get serious about it. “Many of our humanly functions benefit from stretching,” says Dr Alex Hopwood, a chiropractor who co-owns Stretch Studios with Alpen.“The digestive system works better after you’ve been active and moving.” With a few simple tips, it’s easy to increase your flexibility and start stretching like a pro.

Assistance pays off

Your yoga or pilates teacher has probably assisted your pose before, resulting in a deeper stretch. This idea that guided practice builds better flexibility and can push the body further in a controlled environment is the basis of a crop of new stretch-focused studios. “The benefits of going to a stretch studio rather than doing it on your own is that not only are you getting a professional who knows what they’re doing, but quite often you’re going to get much better stretch because we understand the timing of it,” explains Hopwood, who specialises in one-on-one sessions from his Double Bay and Darlinghurst studios in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

Hopwood says guided stretching supports proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or PNF, the information of motion between your brain and your muscles, which diminishes with age (one of the reasons we’re less flexible as we get older). “We get our clients to contract their muscle while they’re in the stretch,” says Hopwood. “That’s building a better communication pathway between their mind and their muscles so that their brain understands how to use that muscle, in that range, in their everyday life.”

Get dynamic

The static stretches you’d do at the start of a run—a few half-baked quad or hamstring curls—aren’t all that helpful. “Lots of people think that stretching or holding a stretch for about 10 seconds is beneficial, but studies have shown that you've got to hold between 30 to 40 seconds for a static stretch to work,” says Hopwood. Better still are dynamic stretches that expand the muscle through movement, like walking lunges. “You shouldn’t do static stretching before exercising, especially if you go to the gym, because you lose about 20 to 25 per cent of your strength if you do,” says Hopwood. “One of the major components of a muscle's function and its filaments is that the longer the muscle, the stronger it is.”

Tune your technique

Stretching is beneficial, muscle exertion is not. So how much is too much? Allen says it’s helpful to keep a check on intensity: on a scale of one to 10, you’re looking to reach a seven for the ‘pull’ of each movement. “If your body is going to relate what you’re doing to pain, it will be on the defence,” she advises. “You want to stay below that so that your body can relax and give you new range.”And just like exercise, the benefits are cumulative: your muscles will recoil back to their original state if you’re not diligent. “If you’re an office worker sitting down and your hip flexors are in a shortened stationary position, you can regress quite quickly in that aspect,” warns Hopwood. “So we recommended continuing to stretch, even after you’ve reached a level you’re satisfied with.”

Blog Source from vogueau

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