Our jobs and other daily activities wreak havoc on our bodies because of their repetitive nature. Most of us live in cities and our days sitting at a desk. Sitting for long hours causes your muscles to shorten and tighten resulting in stiff and tight back muscles. If you hold a desk job, chances are you have had low back pain.

Are you stretching enough?

And by this, I don’t mean the two minutes hurried stretches. I mean slow controlled 10- 15 minute stretches done regularly after every workout.

Stretching is an important component of fitness which unfortunately is not given the weight it deserves. If you are always in a hurry and rush through your stretches, you are doing your body a disservice. You are therefore missing out on the following benefits you get from proper stretching.

1. Stretching Improves flexibility

A flexible body is a young body. The only known way of increasing flexibility is through practicing regular progressive stretching. As you age, your muscles shorten and become tight. As a result, you become susceptible to injuries. Increased flexibility makes you exercise easily and do your daily activities with ease.

2. Decreased risk of injury

Regular stretching increases the range of motion around your joints. Your movements are easy and less strained. This, in turn, reduces the chances of getting injuries during exercise or at any other time.

3. Increases circulation

Stretching increases the amount of blood flow to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and to the whole body. The flow of synovial fluid within the joints is increased making them more pliable and able to reach greater ranges of motion. This ensures lesser joint pain and reduced risk of joints wearing out.

4. Reduce low back pain

Stretching promotes muscular relaxation. Back pain is mainly caused by tense, tight muscles. During the day, muscles contract and shorten as a result of being confined in one position for long periods of time. Such muscles become stressed and painful.

After working for several hours, stand and walk around to keep blood flowing in your limbs and to promote joint mobility. Flexible hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors help reduce the stress on the low back and the stiffness that cause pain.

5. Improves posture

Slow easy stretching lengthens muscles through their full range of motion. One of the major causes of poor posture is muscular imbalances caused by differences in strength and flexibility.

If your upper back is rounded, it means your chest muscles are tighter and stronger compared to those of your back. This might be as a result of unbalanced training programs or poor sitting posture both at home and at work.

Adequate stretching ensures that all muscles on both sides of the body are long and relaxed and therefore promote an upright posture.

6. Better overall health and vitality

By doing regular flexibility training, you’ll notice less pain, improved movement, and reduced muscle soreness. In addition, you will also see improvements in physical performance. Flexibility exercises such as Yoga and Pilates help relax and lengthens your muscles.  And as a plus, you also get the endorphin-boosting effects that improve your mood and lower stress levels.

You can live a more comfortable life, alleviate stress and pain just by doing a few stretches before, during and after your workouts. Or, you can even separate them from your workouts and do them at the office or at home.

Never push yourself beyond your limits. Never stretch to the point of pain rather stretch to the point of tension and hold the stretches for 15 to 30 seconds. The longer you hold a muscle in a stretched out position, the more flexible it becomes.