1. END THE PAIN
Muscles are made up of myocytes, cells commonly known as muscle fibres. When we stretch a muscle, the fibre is pulled out to its full length, which helps realign any disorganised fibres by straightening them out. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue, so reducing muscle pain.
2. IT’S GOOD FOR JOINTS
Stretching lengthens the muscles, improving flexibility and range of motion in the joints.
3. TO HELP THE HEART
Extending muscles can be as good for heart health as physical exercise, according to scientists. A 2014 Dutch-American study found that yoga poses – asanas – may be as useful as biking or walking in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
4. YOU GET HAPPY
Stretching releases dopamine, a brain chemical that affects emotional response and increases feelings of happiness. Just taking moments to stop and stretch out the shoulders helps to relax body and mind.
5. PROTECTION FROM INJURY
Studies into tendon injuries indicate that regular stretching – both static, when you hold a position, and dynamic, such as a torso twist – can prevent injury.
6. FIX YOUR HUNCH
The reason that many people who spend a large part of the day working in front of computers get a ‘hunched’ posture is often not because of weak back and shoulders, but due to tight chest muscles. One of the best ways to reduce upper-back pain is to stretch the pectoral muscles – the pecs.
7. DIABETES BUSTER
Stretching has been found to lower blood sugar levels, a key factor in managing diabetes. A 2011 Hawaiian study of people either at risk or already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes found that 20 minutes of stretching lowered glucose levels in the blood by 28ml per decilitre. Researchers believe stretching opens blood vessels in muscles and joints, enabling glucose to be better absorbed by cells.
8. LOWER CHOLESTEROL
Prolonged stretching in combination with healthy eating has been found to reduce cholesterol. An Indian study of adults with coronary atherosclerotic disease – hardening of the arteries – found that after a year of yoga stretches and diet, the condition was reversed by 20 per cent and the cholesterol levels of the participants improved.
9. IT KILLS PAIN
Stretching the jaw muscles can ease tension headaches, a type of pain often brought on by tightening the neck and facial muscles during stress or feelings of fatigue.
10. YOU’LL BE STRONGER
A study carried out in 2012 found that after ten weeks of stretching one calf, the strength of that calf increased by an amazing 29 per cent.