Guide to Stretching
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Despite the benefits of a regular exercise routine, many men simply don't have the time, money or drive to vigorously exercise. Chances are if you aren't exercising regularly, you aren't stretching regularly -- the two seem to go hand in hand. However, stretching has many benefits even when it is not paired with exercise and, un-like running, it can be done in your bed, at your desk and on the couch. If you just take the time to do a few simple stretches -- no leg behind your head type of thing -- on a consistent basis you can increase your flexibility, your lifespan and help prevent injuries that occur from simple daily activities.
Benefits of a good stretch
While experts might disagree on what type of stretching routine is best, they all agree that incorporating a daily stretching routine, on its own or in addition to a exercise, is a good thing. This is because your muscles tighten with age (do to continuous use and strain) and the easiest way to combat and relieve this tension is through stretching.
Stretching lengthens muscles, thus alleviating the pain caused by the natural tightening of your muscles. As your muscles lengthen from stretching, your range of motion will increase. This new and increased range of motion will prevent simple activities from causing you pain now or in the future, like bending over or reaching under things. Stretching also decreases the amount of pain you feel after doing a repetitive activity like throwing a Frisbee or even sitting in a desk all day. The larger your range of motion, the harder it is for you to injure yourself because your muscles can be pushed/forced/bent/rolled farther before injury. Improving your range of motion also gives you better balance, which means you are less prone to falls (this may not be the most important thing now, but it will be in the future). So, by starting a routine now and making it a habit, you are ensuring an easier aging process.
In addition, stretching also helps to increase circulation in your body by increasing the blood flow to your muscles. This increase of circulation helps you to recover from injuries quicker and gives you more energy. As a bonus, stretching helps to relieve stress, because tensing our muscles is a natural reaction to stress.
While there are virtually thousands of stretches, a few things hold true for all of them. Your stretches should always be pain-free. If you are even feeling a slight bit of discomfort, let up on the stretch a little. You will see results quickly, but not over night. So, don't feel like you need to stretch far to do it properly, a proper stretch, for our purpose, is one that doesn't hurt. Also, never bounce when stretching. Bouncing can actually cause small tears in your muscles, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic. These tears, in turn, cause scar tissue which further tightens your muscles up, completely undoing the positive effects of stretching.
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