Stretching is almost inevitable. It is imprinted so deep within us that it almost feels like a reflex: what is the first thing you do when you wake up, even before getting out of bed? What is the first thing you do when you stand up after sitting for a while? That's right - you stretch. In this article, we'll discuss the negative consequences of neglecting to stretch after a workout, as well as the general benefits of stretching.
The Effect on Posture
“Flexibility is important because it allows the muscles and joints to move through a full range of motion,” said Tim Waanders, a physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York.
We all know that sitting for a long period of time makes us slouch, but it also stiffens the muscles in the neck, nape, shoulders, and chest. When you neglect to stretch, this pressure on the muscles and joints adds up over time and can result in chronic discomfort or pain. Over time, the muscles can be shortened and imbalanced. This increases pain. According to Waanders, "certain muscles are shortened, which then puts the neurological system in overdrive."
The Risk of Injury
When you neglect to stretch your muscles, it upsets the optimal length-tension balance. This is a term from the field of physical therapy that describes the optimal amount of tension a muscle has in relation to its length. When this balance is disrupted, other muscles have to carry the weight they're not meant to. This leads to injury and muscle strain. Over long periods of time, it can turn into arthritis, as joints don't move in their full range of motion due to limited flexibility.
Additional negative consequences include the accelerated weakening of your joints and muscles, which will lead to poor quality or mobility during your workouts and day-to-day life.
The benefits of stretching are well known and researched. Stretching reduces all kinds of pain, reduces the risk of falling, helps with posture and mobility, and increases blood flow and energy levels. If you work out, dynamic stretches are better before the workout while static ones are good to finish off. Hold static stretches for a minimum of 30 seconds and no longer than 90 seconds.