So you workout 3-5 days/week, you drink 64 oz of water per day, and you eat clean *most* of the time. Maybe you even listen to your watch when it buzzes you every hour to stand up and walk around. You consider yourself a healthy person! I need to ask though, how’s your stretch life? Stretching is a key element to health, let me explain why.
Bear with me, I want to explain some science. Your muscles are made up of thousands of fibers called fasicles. Within the fasicles, there are sarcolemmae, which then break down into muscle fibers that contain thick and thin filaments. Confused? Check out the diagram below
The myosin and actin are my favorite parts of the muscle. As a muscle contracts, the myosin heads latch onto the actin and pull it, therefore shortening the muscle’s length. This process repeats again and again until the ATP stops being released because the brain stopped sending signals to shorten the muscle. Here’s an example. Let’s say you are eating a meal. When you want to lift your fork up to your mouth, your brain sends signals to the muscles in your shoulder, arm, and hand to contract certain and specific muscles to start contracting. Once the fork is in your mouth, the signals stop and the ATP is no longer released. As you get ready to lower the fork to your plate, your brain sends signals to other muscles, we call these antagonists, in order to do the opposite action.
Okay enough of the science… thanks for letting me nerd out a little. I explain all of that to show you that we have a lot going on in our muscles when there is a contraction. This process is happening hundreds of thousands of times per day, with every movement you make!! How cool is God?!
Now when we stretch, it helps the muscles return to their normal resting position. This helps the muscle reset, and also allows it to prepare for the next contraction. Stretching is like car maintenance, in order for things to run smoothly, you need to oil things up and get them ready to go again.
Stretching also reduces injury risk. By allowing time for the muscle to return to its resting length, it kickstarts recovery and reduces your risk for injury. Over time when you consistently stretch, you will start to see improvements in your flexibility which can assist you in functional activities.
Stretching regularly can reduce chronic pain (low back pain!) SO many times I have seen patients who come in with lower back pain that feel better in 2-3 sessions after I have put them on a custom stretching program. When bodies are stiff and do not move over a period of time, this can cause muscular imbalances and cause tension and inflammation. As we stretch and allow the muscles to fully return to their resting position, this problem is solved.
I hope now you see that stretching is a very important part of your daily routine. Thank you for reading along with me!