5 beautiful ways stretching benefits your body
Have you noticed that after a good night’s sleep or afternoon nap, the first thing your dog does when she gets up is stretch? Ahhh…that feels good. But more importantly, it restores flexibility to muscles that have tightened up during sleep so she can move fluidly and comfortably as she trots over to her bowl of kibble. Stretching is a natural daily habit for our canine companions, and it should be for you too. Hannah Karass, Vice President of Programs and Science for Curves and Jenny Craig tells you why.
- Not only does it restore flexibility to muscles that have been inactive and become stiff (think about how you feel after a long car ride), it prevents your muscles from tightening up after your vigorous Curves workout. “Exercising without proper stretching can lead to injury, muscle imbalance, and stalling of results,” says Karass.
- As we age, our muscles naturally lose flexibility making them more prone to injury. Think about it: An elastic band is less likely to tear or break than an inelastic one.
- Consistent stretching relieves joint stiffness and improves your range of motion making everyday tasks easier and more enjoyable.
- Your muscles are linked—interdependent—from head to toe. When one muscle is tight, it affects other areas of your body. Your hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your thigh), for instance, become shortened and tight if you do a lot of sitting and that tension stresses muscles in your lower back. Stretching prevents muscle imbalances that can lead to pain and injury.
- By stretching all major muscle groups, you’ll have balanced flexibility throughout your body, which improves your posture and creates mechanical efficiency for optimal functional movement, meaning that whether you’re doing a Curves workout, going up and down stairs, putting away groceries, or taking a walk with friends, you’ll enjoy full, fluid, and comfortable motion.
“The healthiest muscles are both toned and flexible,” emphasizes Karass, which is why she developed the new Stretch and Strength class* for Curves, beginning February 1. The class combines stretching and strengthening in one 30-minute circuit. Between each of the strength machines, you perform a 30-second stretch. Some of the stretches are dynamic, meaning they require a little movement that both warms and loosens muscles and joints; others are passive holds. “The stretches hit all major muscle groups, but we paid special attention to the shoulders and hips where many women carry most of their tightness and stress,” says Karass. And even though you’ve stretched throughout the circuit, Karass advises finishing your workout with the recommended post-circuit stretch routine that you would usually do.
When just beginning the Stretch and Strength classes, you might find that your range of motion is less than you had imagined but don’t get discouraged. “Improving flexibility takes time,” says Karass. “Keep with it, and your muscles will become more supple.”
And you will feel…ahhh…so good!
*Scheduled workouts and classes vary by location and are offered at participating locations only.