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What is stretching ?

Stretching, in its most basic form is an automatic and natural action. You often stretch instinctively after long periods of inactivity or after a sleep.
Incorporating stretching into your daily workouts or into your regular day on their own is just as important to health and functioning of the body as regular exercise.

Benefits of stretching

Well, for the body there are many benefits but the most obvious benefit of stretching is to improve flexibility and range of motion.A lack of flexibility can cause movement to become slower and less fluid, making you more susceptible to muscle strains or other soft tissue injuries. On the other hand an increased flexibility comes with an improvement of the balance and coordination.
Chronically tense and tight muscles can also contribute to poor posture. Stretching helps to ensure correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture.
There are also benefits for the mind and remember that stretching is a good way to reduce stress. A buildup of stress causes your muscles to contract, becoming tense. This tension can go on to have a negative impact on just about every part of your body. Spending just a short amount of time (5-10 minutes) stretching each day can help calm the mind, providing a mental break and giving your body a chance to recharge, it also improves the quality of your sleep.

Types of stretching
In general there are two major types of stretching – dynamic and static stretching.

Dynamic stretching – Before Workout
This type of stretching involves putting muscles through full range of of mobilizing the joints to which the muscles attach. Good examples of the movements would be leg swings, arm circles, cradle walks, spiderman walks. The goal is to make your nervous system get to a point that it`s fired up and ready to lift some weights.

Static stretching – Post Workout
This type of stretching is used to stretch the muscles while the body is at rest. It is composed of various techniques that gradually lengthen a muscle to an elongated position (to the point of discomfort almost) and hold that position between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. When performed correctly, static stretches help you lengthen tight muscles and improve your balance and overall fitness. A good stretch session also helps relieve stress and tension.

Sources: http://www.mensfitness.com

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