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June 4, 2016
By A. Weinberg, Contributing Columnist




Stretching, along with craving fatty foods and naps, is amongst one of
the most natural things a human can want. But, luckily, this instinct is
extremely good for you. We wake up in the morning; we stretch. It's
like yawning for the limbs.



Unfortunately, it is one of those things we relegate to the bottom of the
workout list. But it can be one of the most important and beneficial
parts of a body care routine.



Stretching has some obvious benefits, like being more in shape.
Additionally, it has some nice, less-expected advantages. If you are in
the habit of stretching safely, your whole being, mind, body, spirit, will
be energetically elevated. It will also keep you healthy and able to do
the things you love.



So, stretch high up to the ceiling, take a deep breath, and sit down to
read why.

Weird Health Benefits of Stretching



































1. Stretching Your Legs Makes Your Arteries More Flexible


“Why would I want flexible arteries? I mean, I want a flexible body...”
But taking care of them actually has a huge impact on health.

Arterial stiffness is an independent risk factor for mortality and
cardiovascular disease.  Researchers have found that high levels of
physical fitness delay age-related arterial stiffness.

But you don't have to run miles every day to reap the benefits. Just
stretch.

In a 2009 study by Dr. Kenata Yamamoto and his colleagues from the
National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, the relationship
between flexibility, and stiff arteries was examined.

A total of 526 healthy adults (178 males, 348 females) were tested.
They were divided into three groups: 20-39 years old (young), 40-59
years old (middle aged), and 60-88 years old (old).

People in each category were split into poor or high flexibility tests,
which was determined by the mean value of a sit and stretch test. They
were also matched for age, height, weight, and metabolic risk factors.

Before the experiment, participants abstained from exercise for 24
hours, and fasted without drinking caffeine 4 hours beforehand. They
were tested between 9 and 12 in the morning.

Final results showed that in the middle-aged and older subjects, having
a less flexible body was correlated with arterial stiffening.

Still, us “youngins” (in the 20-39 year old group) can still benefit from
getting flexible early.
[Editor's Note:

Flexible arteries also carry more blood flow, which could help to
improve
erectile performance.]





2.
Stretching Can Ease Your Lower Back Pain


A sore back has become common for everyone these days: Old, young,
and in-between. Many of us work in sedentary jobs where sitting at a
computer all day causes a stiff back. Or you might work on your feet all
day. Balance is difficult to achieve.

An aching lower back can cause not only pain in the moment, but also
disability, psychological symptoms, and a reduced quality of life.

Dr. D.G. Chang from U.C. San Diego examined various randomized
control trials assessing the effectiveness of treating chronic lower back
pain with yoga. He evaluated how it affects physical functioning,
disability, pain, and associated psychological symptoms.

The conclusion? Yoga can reduce pain and disability if it is practiced
safely. Now, yoga is a specific kind of stretching, but it encompasses a
lot of quite practical, everyday routines such stretching out your back
by standing and bending gently backwards in the or sitting on the floor
and gently turning your back to either side.





3.
Stretching Actually Boosts Your Self Esteem


The study in question looks at older individuals, but if you think about it
(whether you, dear reader, are “old” or “young”), don't you feel
better about yourself after exercising? I do.

But, according to this particular research, stretching can be especially
beneficial to how you feel about yourself.

In a 2000 study by Edward McAuley, PhD, of the Department of
Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
researchers looked at the effects of exercise on 60-75 year old adults
who were predominantly white, female, well-educated, and overweight.

They divided them into two groups: one that stretched and toned in a
gym and another that did brisk walking three times a week, and in both
cases participants did the activities for six months. Before the program,
everyone underwent physical assessment and completed
questionnaires measuring self-esteem, physical self-perception, and
self-efficacy. 116 of the 174 test subjects returned for a 2nd
physiological assessment and 152 completed the psychological
assessments.

The results? Overall self-esteem increased in both groups, but there
was significantly more improvement for those who stretched and toned.

So, if you need a confidence boost, try stretching it out. Especially if
you're an older lady.





4.
Stretching Improves Strength and Endurance


Stretching doesn't just make you flexy (and sexy) --- it also makes you
strong (and able to kick ass.)

A 2007 study performed by Arnold Nelson, associate professor of
kinesiology at Louisiana State University, tested the effects of extending
the body.

A total of 38 mostly sedentary folks were divided into two groups. The
first group didn't do any stretching during a 10-week period. The
second group engaged in a program that involved stretching their legs
for 40 minutes a few times a week.

The exercises performed were a series of 15 static stretches, that
worked all the major muscles in the leg, including hamstrings and
quadriceps.

They repeated every distinct stretch three times, and each repetition
lasted fifteen seconds.

The results were really surprising.  Strength was increased by 32% for
knee extension exercises and 15% for knee flexing exercises.

Their endurance also improved (This was measured by the amount of
repetitions they could do at 60% of their maximum strength.)

Knee extension endurance improved by 29% and knee flexion
endurance by 30%. Stretching buffs up your whole bod.





5.
Stretching Improves Your Range of Motion





So, how is this different from being just flexible, you might ask. I did.

Range of motion refers to the distance your joints are able to move in
their corresponding limbs.

A 2013 study by M.A. Wyon at the University of Woverhampton,
Walsall, in the United Kingdom discovered that all different kinds of
stretching improved range of motion.

He divided the participants, all dancers, into three groups: The first, a
strength group, focused on working the agonist muscles, with
emphasis on hip flexors.

The second, a low-intensity group, focused on static passive stretches,
and did exercises involving the hamstrings, gluteal, quadriceps, and calf
muscles.

The third, a high-intensity group, did the same stretching as the low-
intensity group, but harder.

All three groups improved their passive range of motion, with no
significant difference between any one group.

However, for an
active range of motion, the strength and low-intensity
groups outperformed the high-intensity group.

The gist? Get stretching to keep those limbs limber.





6.
Stretching Improves Your Circulation



According to Peggy Hall, a wellness expert who studied at U.C. Irvine
California, “Stretching increases your blood flow and circulation for a
healthier body and sends oxygen to your brain for a clearer mind and
sunnier moods.” Heck yes. Who wouldn't want that? For those of us
who get cold easily, better circulation is always a relief, too.





7.  
And Yes, Stretching Also Improves Your Posture


Sitting up straight makes you healthier and prettier. And stretching out
that back can make it more doable.

According to Ingrid Knight-Cohee, the regional director of group
fitness of the Steve Nash World and Sports Club in Vancouver B.C., "An
hour workout can’t possibly undo the other 23 hours in a day when
you are otherwise sedentary or slouched."

She points out that it requires a combination of techniques, including
stretching daily, focusing on the muscles necessary for spine support,
and taking a break from your chair while working a desk job.

Pay attention to that daily stretching part, and look up ways to take
care of your back. Your whole body will thank you.  













































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