Types of exercise like cardio and lifting weights are not the only options. Find out what benefits a good stretching routine offers.
If you are an athlete going for top performance, keep in mind that there are some studies that imply stretching before a workout can reduce performance (1). Stretching after your workouts instead could be safer.
1. Stretching can improve flexibility
Flexibility is a fitness component that you can describe as how far your muscles can comfortably stretch out.
One study suggests that not resting between stretch exercises can improve the maximal range of motion more than resting 30 seconds between repetitions (5).
In turn, having better flexibility can reduce your risk of injuries and even falling down.
Even if you don’t have any flexibility issues right now, working on this area of your health could be worth it. You don’t just get flexible in a day so you want to start early enough.
2. Stretching can increase blood flow to muscles
Your blood circulation is responsible for transporting good nutrients to where they can be used and waste substances to where they can get removed from your body.
3. Stretching can improve your posture
Improving your flexibility, with or without stretching equipment, can also influence the way you carry yourself throughout the day.
For example, having very tight chest muscles could lead to walking around with slouched shoulders.
While there is likely no such thing as a perfect posture, it is clear that very suboptimal habits in this area can lead to injuries.
If stretching helps you avoid this, it can be a big benefit.
4. Stretching can improve sleep
You are likely aware that sleep can be important for things like mood, health, cognitive function, etc.
However, you may be unsure how you can actually improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
Interestingly enough, doing physical activities like stretching throughout the day can actually improve these things (14).
While stretching is not the most intense workout, you may want to avoid the dynamic routines right before bed. Moving too intensely at this time of the day can actually decrease quality.
Something else worth noting is that more intense workouts (throughout the day) will likely benefit your sleep more than stretching.
5. Stretching can improve balance
You can describe balance as the skill of not falling down. Similar to many other skills, you can train balance by challenging yourself in this area to safe extents.
In turn, having good balance can help reduce your risk of accidents in your daily life.
6. Stretching can help against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a condition with many negative consequences.
Similar to many other conditions, there are ways to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
One specific study observed that real stretching was more effective than mock stretching for controlling blood glucose levels in individuals with or at risk of type 2 diabetes (20).
7. Stretching can improve your mood
The positivity of your thoughts and your current mood are influenced by your physical habits too.
A more specific study looked at the difference between the impacts of a 10-minute stretch session after work for 3 months on 67 individuals compared to doing nothing.
They measured a reduction in levels of anxiety, pain, and exhaustion, and an increase in levels of vitality, mental health, and flexibility in the stretching group (24).
8. Stretching can benefit weight loss a tiny amount
To lose weight you need to make it so you use up more energy than is coming in from the things you eat.
One way to approach this process is by moving more intensely.
Since stretching burns more calories than daily activities where you mostly sit still, you can say it benefits weight loss to a tiny extent.
That being said, it is important to note that the effects of stretching in this area will be relatively small. At least compared to many other exercise alternatives.
This means you will likely have to make positive changes in other lifestyle areas too to lose a lot of weight while implementing a stretching routine.
9. Stretching could improve athletic performance
Something worth noting is that this next benefit of stretching has a lot of ifs and buts. Partly because there are so many different ways to stretch and so many different types of exercise.
Differences in these factors can lead to differences in the impact of stretching on athletic performance. One study observed that a 10-week stretching program led to an increase in calf strength (25).
For now, it looks like athletes who want to perform optimally likely want to avoid stretching right before the competition.
Stretching after the performance can likely still offer helpful benefits.
10. Stretching can reduce pain
One specific study looked at the impact of stretching exercises 2 times a day for 5 days a week for 4 weeks on 96 subjects with neck pain.
They measured a significant reduction in neck and shoulder pain and an improvement in neck function in the group that stretched compared to the group that did not stretch (34).
This benefit of stretching can be helpful for people who often struggle with painful body parts but also just in more exceptional situations where you have a stiff neck after a night of bad sleep.
Example stretching routine for better flexibility
There is a wide variety of different stretching techniques, durations, and frequencies. In the video below you can learn what a good stretching routine for good results looks like.