Movement is vital for the human experience; we were built to move. Nowadays, we spend more and more of our time sitting at a desk and in front of a computer screen as well as time sitting during the commute to wherever we work if we work in an office space. If not, then we just tend to sleep in an extra hour before shuffling over to our desks to start the day. Obviously, all of this sitting down hasn’t been the best option for our health and over the past decades as food has become abundant and labour less physically intensive, obesity rates have soared. In response to this, we have started to take our physical fitness seriously by taking a more proactive approach instead of passively assuming that everything will be fine so long as we eat, drink and wake up in the morning.
The problem with our constant sitting has been that we aren’t using our muscles for what they were designed for and thus, for many of us, they start atrophying from neglect. Things like our butt muscles, leg muscles and arm muscles are all not working nearly as hard as they had to before which is leading to people having very underdeveloped muscles. Nowadays, if you were to match up the average person against a farmer from 200 years ago, we would be demolished when it comes to anything physical. Stretching ties in to the use and building up of these muscles that are signs of a healthy lifestyle and a physically fit individual.
What are the Benefits of Stretching?
Stretching is something that all the fitness trainers will tell you to do before an exercise and you can see many top athletes stretching or warming up by running a few laps or even jogging on the spot before a sprint, a match or swimming laps. The question though still remains, why do they do it? The reason is that stretching keeps your muscles flexible, strong and healthy. That flexibility and looseness is what allows you to engage in the variety of motions you use for daily life but especially when it comes to physical activity. Stretching increases that looseness while misuse will instead cause your muscles to shorten and tighten. Tight muscles during labour-intensive activity is what results in cramping and pulling of muscles. This is most common in the lower back, hamstring (the muscles behind your thighs), neck and shoulders. I’m sure everyone reading this article has had 1st-hand experience with this at least a couple of times.
What warming up and by extension, stretching do is warm up and loosen your muscles so that they’re prepared for the load you put on them instead of having them work hard when they’re not prepared for it and end up tightening and causing you pain for several days.
What Do I Have to Stretch To Avoid the Consequences?
The human body is covered with muscle and various muscle groups corresponding to the different parts of our body as you have most likely seen on posters during a visit to the doctor. There are 11 major muscle groups and in total, there are more than 600 muscles in the human body. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to stretch all of them. What you need to focus on are the problem areas or in other words: 1) the areas that are most susceptible to injury and 2) the areas that you are going to be using.
For instance, if you plan on going for a run, you don’t need to worry about stretching/warming up your arms since they aren’t playing a physically taxing role. On the other hand, your legs, butt and back are what you should be focusing on. Similarly, if you plan on going to the gym for an upper body workout, you probably want to warm up that part of your body before lifting the maximum weights by starting off small and/or stretching.
So before going to your workout and grabbing your exercise equipment, make sure to take some stretching gear with you too. If you haven’t noticed professional athletes doing so, take note.
The Best Stretch Equipment for Your Workout Prep
One of the most commonly used stretching tools is the stretching rope. There aren’t any products that are actually called stretching ropes since this is a category for two similar yet different products both used for warming up your body’s muscles. These are loop resistance bands and tube bands. The difference between the two is important to point out.
Loop Resistance Bands: These are the ones that provide more even pressure across the body and are used for more casual stretching such as when warming up. They are usually either elastic or fabric, depending on the manufacturer. They are easier on the body and are more generally used for things like rehabilitation exercises.
Tube Bands: Tube bands provide for a greater stretch but be careful in case you might overdo it and hurt yourself. These are easier to hold onto when it comes to pulling and pressing exercises than resistance bands. They also tend to last longer and are more often used by professional athletes.
Some very popular stretches with these resistance bands involve putting it around your feet while sitting down and then pulling your body towards your feet. This is a great stretch for your hamstrings and lower back. Other popular exercises with bands include the front squat in which you hold one end with your hands and you press down the other end with your feet. Another one is to hold down one end with one foot, tie the other end around your other foot and lift up that foot whilst trying to reach your glutes. Of course I could go on and on with the stretch exercises possible with stretching gear and other resistance equipment since they are universal when it comes to their capabilities.
What If I Don’t Exercise?
Even if you’re not the active type or want to be but are physically unable, stretching is still an important activity that not only helps with flexibility but also improves circulation, promotes better posture, lowers the risk of injury by working out your joints and works as a natural stress reliever.
Stretching ties in with what it means to be healthy, moving. Stretching is something that has numerous benefits and no visible downsides. It’s something that doesn’t take too much time out of your day to do and can be done nearly anywhere at almost any time. Maybe you’ve just woken up, you’re on your lunch break or are about to go to sleep, it’s always a great time for some stretching.
Our bodies are complex and diverse things and if we don’t take care of them properly, it’ll lead to unforeseen consequences down the road. So when going to your next workout, whether that be at a gym, club, pool or simply for a brisk walk outside, take some time to stretch. To get the most of your stretching, resistance bands and tube bands are recommended, each one better than the other depending on your physical condition and style of workout. Stay active and be safe! If you’re interested in stretching gear and/or exercise equipment to have that perfect exercise, visit Fitness Avenue store today to check out a wide variety of equipment for affordable prices.