If you love playing sports with rigorous and strenuous movements like basketball, football, and volleyball, you can never dismiss the importance of stretching because this physical exercise helps to prevent injuries brought about by the intense physical movements. The truth is stretching should be done before games not just to warm up the body, but also to prepare it for the intense physical movements.
Professional athletes are aware of the importance of stretching which is why they always take the time to stretch before each game. If they don’t do this, they know they may injure themselves with torn muscles or ligaments which could in turn prevent them from playing games – and they want that as playing is what they do for a living. Since professional athletes take stretching very seriously, it means so should we. Sadly, a lot of amateur players ignore stretching and simply dismiss it as a waste of time and effort. The truth is stretching has a lot of benefits and the list below shows several:
- Improved Flexibility – flexibility is important when playing games as well as for everyday living as your movements are no longer limited to their comfort zone which in turn increase your overall physical ability.
- Improved Range of Motion – once you increase your full range of motion, you prevent yourself from easily getting injured as the motion, flexion, and extension of your joints are not longer limited to their norm.
- Improved Circulation – stretching helps to increase blood flow distribution towards your muscles.
- Relieves Stress – when you have tense muscles caused by stress, stretching helps to relieve and relax the muscles.
- Prevent Injury and Improve Recovery – stretching conditions both the muscles and joints which helps in preventing injury as well as reducing recovery time.
- Improves Posture and Technique – stretching makes muscles more elastic giving you a better posture and technique.
- Increased Power – since muscles are more elastic and range of motion has increased, therefore power will also inadvertently increase.
- Increased Endurance – the increase in circulation along with muscle flexibility and elasticity means the muscles are able to take in more oxygen, therefore increasing endurance. The increased endurance also means there is less buildup of lactic acid.
Fortunately these days, more people are aware of the benefits of stretching as compared to around 2 decades ago. Most people now understand the meaning of exercise and healthy eating even if some don’t really practice it. They also understand the benefits brought by the feeling of physical and mental fitness. Sadly, they fail to understand that regular stretching also has great influence on our body and how it can perform more effectively.
There are actually several reasons why people neglect to stretch. People who are not into athletics often tend not to stretch except when they feel their muscles have gone stiff or sore. Their symptoms often result during arduous physical tasks or movements and that only when they feel the soreness or stiffness of their muscles do they realize the need to stretch. For athletes though, they sometimes fail to realize that warm up is not a part of stretching. Before any game, a player needs to stretch 10 to 15 minutes before they start their warm up routine. Ignoring stretching during these periods is often the cause of injuries. The truth is stretching isn’t just done before the game but also after. However, many players fail to stretch after their games due to exhaustion. Instead, they immediately go to their locker rooms to shower and rest, leaving them with stiff muscles and joints the next day.
If you do not stretch when your muscles are tight, you subject yourself to:
- Increased risk to injuries.
- Decreased mobility.
- Decreased reaction time.
- Decreased muscle coordination.
- Decreased power output of muscles.
- Decreased muscle metabolism.
With all the disadvantages you will have if you don’t stretch, you will come to realize just how important stretching is, particularly before and after games or exercises. The only problem is that many people still do not do it dutifully. The truth is we all different stretching needs and this can be based on the bracket we fall into. Knowing which bracket you fall into will ensure you are doing the right type of stretching that you need.
Athletes – stretching is vital for athletes of all level. There are sports that do rigorous body movements and there are some that put a lot of pressure on muscles and joints such as martial arts, gymnastics, running, weightlifting, and many more. Muscle strains and tears could occur in any sport if an athlete does not stretch properly. This makes it important for any athlete to do their stretching routinely and consistently to avoid any injury brought about by stiff muscles and joints.
Non-Athletes – for those who do not exercise or do strenuous activities regularly, they are more prone to injury than they think. This is because their bodies are not conditioned to execute movements that the body is not used to. Stretching will help to prevent and even resist any injury from occurring.
Elderly – for most elderly people, their muscles and joints will likely have weakened and their range of motion has deteriorated. However, with regular stretching, you can develop and maintain the strength in your muscles providing and improving your senior quality of life. In addition, regular stretching provides better blood circulation. Thus, it gives you not only protection from injury, but it also allows you to recover quickly. The key to this however is to start at an early age. This will help ensure your mobility as you get older.
There are actually four components involved with fitness – strength, nutrition, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. Even if you spend a lot of time and money building the first three, if you do not put enough effort in building flexibility, you will still be missing out on an overall balanced fitness. Stretching should be done at least once a day for about 5 to 10 minutes and holding each stretched position by at least 10 seconds because anything lower than that is practically ineffective and therefore pointless.