Stretching is often the activity that most often gets overlooked as part of our exercise routine and at best it might consist of a rushed cooldown before hitting the showers after an intense gym class.
It might be time to have a rethink about this activity though, because although stretching isn’t the most exciting thing to do, it is actually one of the most important factors when it comes to reaching your fitness goals quicker.
In need of some motivation to get stretching? Then read on…..
1. Helps to avoid injury
Stretching is beneficial in more ways than just improving flexibility. If our muscles are tight, it is more difficult to perform exercises correctly as we have decreased mobility ranges. This can lead to other muscles overcompensating as well as poor posture. After an intense workout or week of exercise, your muscles will start to develop these imbalances over time, which puts added strain on certain muscles. It is this strain that increases the risk of pulled muscles and joint pain which can really put a halt to your fitness progress.2. Promotes anti-aging
Yes it’s true! While stretching won’t do much to combat wrinkles it can in fact help our bodies to feel younger for longer, therefore delaying the aging process. Stretching works wonders for our mobility by lengthening and making muscle fibre more supple. So, the more we care for our muscles, the longer we can continue to exercise and lead a healthy, active lifestyle.3. De-stress
If you regularly feel stressed and fatigued it could well be because of a lack of stretching. Tight muscles can lead to soreness and painful knots which play a part in our overall stress levels. To really get the most out of your stretch class or warm-up/cool down, remember to breathe deeply as you perform the stretch. Breathing correctly is just as important as the stretch itself. Try inhaling at the top of your stretch and exhale slowly as you relax your muscles. Try to hold the position for at least 30 seconds while breathing in and out normally. You’ll instantly notice how much more relaxed you feel after your stretch session when combined with the correct breathing techniques.
Yoga or Pilates?
If you are still struggling to find the time to add stretching to your workout routine then it might be worth swapping one of your lower impact classes for a dedicated stretching class, such as Yoga or Pilates. These classes are specifically geared to focus on muscular imbalances and can really help you to feel recharged and heading in the right direction towards your fitness goals. Many of our 1Life centres offer Yoga and Pilates classes throughout the week and are a popular choice for beginners though to fitness fanatics.
If you are looking to incorporate more stretching in to your exercise routine but are unsure where to start then a dedicated exercise class, led by a qualified instructor is the best place to start. They will be able to guide you through the moves and help with your technique so you can get the most out of the class. Although stretching shouldn’t be the only form of exercise you do, it can certainly complement more intense classes and gym sessions.
There are subtle differences between Yoga and Pilates and the benefits they offer, for example the deep stretching performed in Yoga can help to extend muscles that have become shortened with overuse. Pilates on the other hand focuses on improving core strength to improve balance and posture. Both of these classes are incredibly beneficial to your overall fitness so it may come down to personal preference.
For a relaxation opportunity, Yoga could be the class for you, as meditation techniques are often combined with a series of stretching and holding static poses. Pilates is a more dynamic class which is centred around muscle strengthening and toning for improved movement.
Whether you opt for one class over the other or choose to take up both Yoga and Pilates you will soon start to reap the fitness benefits of including regular stretching in your exercise routine.
To try out a class, contact your local 1Life Centre here.