Stretching is often cited as one of the most important pre-workout rituals that anyone can perform.
We know that stretching can make us feel less likely to be injured or hurt while exercising, but apart from feeling good—what does science tell us about the benefits of stretching.
We took a deep dive into the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and compiled their research to discover eight scientific reasons you need to stretch every day.
- Some stretches are better than others
Stretching is more than just stretching.
The NIH reports that stretching is scientifically composed of three sub-stretches—the static, dynamic, and pre-contraction stretch.
The most familiar of these to you may be the static stretch or when a “specific position is held with the muscle.”
The dynamic stretch can be described as a swinging stretch that loosens the joints and works to improve motion, and the pre-contraction stretch involves tensing and contracting the muscle before subsequently stretching it.
You’ll need all three to work towards mobility (dynamic), strength (pre-contraction), and flexibility (static).
- Your range of motion will increase
Taking just a few minutes each day to stretch will increase the length of muscles like hamstrings or quadriceps.
“Most static stretching training studies show an increase in ROM [or range of motion] due to an increase in stretch tolerance,” writes the NIH.
Focusing on static stretches can help you with the flexibility needed—whether on the job, or in athletic ventures like rock climbing.
Whatever you choose to do with your newfound range of motion, you’ll be glad to have more reach and greater versatility.
- Stretching without exercise is still helpful
Even if you don’t regularly exercise or use that home rowing machine (which you should), stretching can still benefit you. While it is shown that “stretching is effective at increasing ROM,” we also know that “stretching as part of a warm-up” can dampen your ability to exercise effectively.
Seems backwards, right?
While we don’t recommend skipping out on the weights in lieu of stretches, we can say with confidence that the benefits of stretching aren’t lost on those who don’t who don’t exercise often.
- You’ll improve blood flow
Stretching is an exercise that’s sole purpose is focused on muscle improvement—and one of the many improvements you can find is the flow of blood.
Stretching relaxes the muscles over time—including when the muscle is contracted in a range that was previously not possible before stretching.
For those who work out, improved blood slow can aid in the development of muscles and the building of strength.
- You’ll improve sexual encounters
While the NIH study seems to shy away from going into too much detail here, it’s obvious that blood flow is helpful for more than just muscle growth and exercise.
Putting aside a few minutes a day to increase motion and increase blood flow can and will result in better sexual performance, as well as aid in combating debilitating diseases such as erectile dysfunction.
It may not be a very polite reason to stretch—but it is certainly scientific.
- You can reduce gait
As we age, we begin to suffer atrophy in many ways—and our posture and ability to walk may begin to suffer.
Stretching has been shown to help improve such problems and help turn back the clocks a bit for many older Americans.
“Static stretching of the hip flexors and extensors may also improve gait in older adults,” so daily stretching may be able to contribute to an increased ability to walk longer distances without sitting or needing a break.
- You can alleviate arthritis pain
We know that 1 in 4 American adults deal with arthritis and subsequently related diseases.
Living with arthritis doesn’t have to be a miserable affair—in fact, many doctors are training and ready to provide prescriptions and treatments to help combat the illness, and many prescription delivery services are available to bring the doctor’s orders right to your door.
As it turns out, you can also expect relief and refuge from your arthritis by stretching every day as well.
The NIH reports that “patients with knee osteoarthritis can benefit from static stretching to increase knee ROM,” and post-contraction stretches can also provide much-need aid.
In conjunction with proper training and treatment, stretching can be a powerful ally against the development of arthritis.
- You’ll hurt less
Finally, daily aches, pains, and pressure points will begin to alleviate themselves over time in those who choose to stretch regularly.
The NIH study shows that patients who practiced pre-contraction stretches reported a 94% reduction of pain in trigger points almost immediately.
As is turns out, the stretching techniques recommended by fitness gurus and doctors is more than hot air.
Stretching is scientifically proven to alleviate daily aches and pains, improve arthritis pain, promote blood flow, and increase motion throughout your body.
We hope that these eight reasons backed by science are compelling enough to get you started on a fitness plan that includes stretching. Just a few minutes a day to work on your body can provide long-lasting and positive effects on your standard of living.