According to most experts, the main benefits of stretching are increased range of motion and an improved flow of blood to the muscles. Some experts also suggest that stretching helps in avoiding muscle injuries, but research has put this claim into doubt, at least for certain kinds of activities. Stretching may also have the potential to reduce muscle aches, and some people use stretching as a way to calm their nerves or relax their bodies.
Improving range of motion is one of the more well-known benefits of stretching. As people age, they often gradually lose their ability to move their joints fully. Stretching can help fight against this tendency, and it can potentially help older people maintain their mobility.
Improving range of motion can also be especially important for people who have suffered some kind of injury. After being injured, people may have to spend a long period of time without moving, which may cause their muscles to atrophy or tighten. Healing these injuries by bringing blood to the muscles while simultaneously improving range of motion can be one of the more important benefits of stretching.
Athletes have often used stretching regimens as a way to make their muscles more limber. Some training programs were built around the idea that stretching would reduce the number of pulled muscles, which are a very common injury in many sports activities. Research studies have generally shown that there is no difference in injury levels among athletes who don’t stretch compared to those who do. Many experts suggest this is because most sports don’t require an extreme range of motion to perform the basic movements, and muscle pulls happen more often because of sudden movements than because of movements beyond a certain range.
Some experts say that an improved range of motion could be more important in avoiding injury for certain sports which are very demanding of flexibility. Examples would include things like martial arts, where high kicking could potentially lead to injuries if the individual isn’t flexible enough. Stretching can also potentially relax a person’s muscles, and for this reason, some people consider stress relief to be one of the more useful benefits of stretching. The lessening in muscle tension might also have benefits for pain relief, especially for certain disorders. Stretching is a very common method of dealing with back pain, for example, and while its effectiveness in this area is unproven, many people swear by it.