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Why Stretching Feels So Good

Writer: Glenn Singer | Outlet: AZ Central

Original article posted here:


Stretching is one of the most common fitness activities. Many people stretch in the gym, and athletes of all kinds stretch on the playing field or court.


You may simply stretch when you get out of bed in the morning or when you take a break at work. There's a consensus that stretching feels good, though not everyone can say why. Stretching has both physical and mental benefits.


Increased Flexibility


Stretching, particularly as people become older, helps increase flexibility -- moving your joints through a complete range of motion. That, in turn, relieves muscle pain and stiffness and can enhance your physical performance, whether you're playing a sport or simply walking somewhere.


From a medical standpoint, stretching breaks up what are known as chemical crossbridges. These are made of two proteins that create tension in the muscle. Stretching the muscle to the end of its range of motion breaks those crossbridges and reduces tension.


Increased Blood Supply


Muscles that are inactive, particularly those in the legs, have less blood supply than muscles in other parts of the body. If circulation decreases to a muscle, waste products tend to accumulate in it.


By stretching, you compress the muscle and raise the blood pressure in veins that remove waste products. Fresh blood comes into the muscle, bringing with it proteins and other nutrients. The overall effect is a greater sense of well-being.


Mental Benefits


Stretching is a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Slow, focused stretching also can lower your blood pressure and breathing rate, according to the University of California's "Berkeley Wellness Letter."


It's also an inherent part of deep muscle relaxation in which you stretch different muscles in turn and then relax.