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What Does Stretching Actually Do?

Woman Stretching. What does it do?

Most people are aware that they are supposed to stretch before they work out, however, fewer are aware of why it is so important. When you’re in a hurry to finish your exercise session, it can be very tempting to miss out this step of your regime, however, stretching is essential to preventing injury and to make sure that you don’t suffer excessive pain after your workout. If you’re wondering about why stretching is such a vital inclusion to your fitness program, read on and learn more about the mysteries of the stretch.

Does Stretching Make Me More Flexible?

A lot of people believe that stretching can make you more flexible, but little is understood about why this is the case. Scientists are aware that stretching increases the range of motion in the muscles, but the reason is, as yet, unknown. Experts believe, however, that stretching exercises may train your nervous system so that it tolerates more muscle extension before allowing pain signals to be fired off.

What Happens When I Stretch?

When you stretch, the tendons and fibers in the muscles elongate, but this effect is only temporary. Stretching repeatedly cannot make your fibers or muscles lengthen permanently since the muscle tissue is attached to the bone and therefore cannot get longer on a permanent basis. The real control of how far you can stretch lies in the nervous system. Your tendons and muscles have nerve endings which fire off when the body stretches too far, registering resistance and pain. These signals tell the body to stop stretching in order to prevent damage to the muscle. People who perform stretching exercises for years on end will eventually be able to increase the amount that they can stretch since the repeated action retrains their nervous system to develop greater stretch tolerance. They will no longer feel the pain because their nervous system fires the warning signals at a later point, and this allows them to stretch more deeply without suffering.

The Muscles Adapt To Movement

One of the reasons why stretching is so important to us today is because we tend to spend much of our time in a seated position. This causes our muscles and nervous systems to become accustomed to having a very limited range of movement. Your body will naturally adapt to your most commonly made movements, and this means that if you never exercise, as soon as you get up and move around your nervous system will begin to fire off warning signals at the unfamiliar sensation.

This means that if you want to experience more flexibility overall, you need to change positions, walk, squat and stand regularly during your day, not just before you plan to participate in strenuous activity.

If you need some help to find stretching exercises that will warm you up and which will improve your flexibility, our beginners’ pilates videos will point you in the right direction.