Stretching and its Benefits

Stretching and its Benefits

What's the word we most associate with extending our imagination? Expand, or was that 'stretch'? Pity we don't practice it that often with our bodies.
Introduction
In our tryst for providing the best for our body, both in terms of diet as well as exercise, what is most disappointing is the lack of stretching! We all do our aerobics, gym exercises, swimming drills to the 't', but what we usually tend to neglect is a proper warm up. Most of the time injuries can be avoided if the body is stretched and warmed up properly before the workout. Ideally every form of exercise has a different effect on your body, and stretching prepares you for the regime that follows. In most gyms, stretching is as important as lifting weights.
There are many of us who associate stretching with yoga. Sure, yoga is one of the many forms of stretching, but not all yoga asanas are the same. There is a thin line between stretching and yoga. Yoga is a way of life, the very essence of living life to the fullest. Stretching, on the other hand makes the foundation of your body a lot stronger, and less susceptible to cramps that you get so often while placing your body under exertion. Another good reason to do some simple and basic stretches everyday is simply because of the sedentary lives that we all live. Studies have shown that stretching, if done properly, can improve muscle tone.
Benefits
When you begin with your first exercise, you realize that the toe-touch that you thought was a piece of cake, is after all, not so easy. Especially not with your well-maintained paunch that you have preserved for so long! No harm in that, because at least you made a start. An intriguing aspect of stretching is that it actually improves your immune system. This is because when you stretch, the body releases endorphins, that give the immune system a boost. Regular stretching can prevent some types of injuries. It also improves the range of motion, and relaxes the muscles. Stretching also increases the blood flow in the body. If done properly, it improves muscular elasticity, and is hence used to get relief from cramps.
Disadvantages
Stretching within limits is beneficial. However, if the body is stretched till pain is felt is bad. It can cause injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Extreme stretching can also result in nerve damage. Also, in a study, it has been shown that stretching before a workout consisting of squats, resulted in reduced stability, affecting the quality of workout.
Myths
Stretching can fix muscle soreness.
Muscle soreness is because of the anaerobic metabolism of muscles during high intensity workouts, which leads to the deposition of lactic acid in the muscle. This is a biochemical process. Stretching the muscle will provide momentary relief from the soreness, but cannot fix it.
Stretching prevents injury.
Again, injury happens due to overexertion, awkward movement, and trauma. Stretching, can to some extent be a buffer from some types of injuries, but can't prevent them totally.
Stretching a few days in a week is enough.
Even on the days you are not exercising, it is recommended that you stretch. Consistent stretching everyday gives the maximum benefits.
Stretching before a workout is enough.
After working out, light stretching can help your body cool down. It also relaxes the muscles that have gone under stress during the workout.
After attaining the required flexibility, I don't need to stretch.
As said before, stretching regularly is beneficial. And to keep the level of flexibility maintained, it is necessary to stretch regularly. A hiatus from it can reduce the body's range of motion.