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Why Does Stretching Feel Good?
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Why Does Stretching Feel Good?

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on October 25, 2022
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8 min

Have you ever wondered why stretching feels so good during or after a workout? Keep reading to find out 7 reasons why it does.

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Stretching is something we might do before and after a workout, and generally, aside from knowing that it’s good for our muscles, the benefits of doing so are largely unknown.

The truth is, stretching is clinically proven to be more effective than other common de-stressing methods, like going for a walk or taking a bubble bath. If you stretch while focusing on your body and breathing, you can further enhance this practice to provide even more positive benefits.

From reducing hypertension to relaxing our nervous system, stretching is an underrated form of movement that we will cover more in-depth throughout this article.

Why Does Stretching Feel Good?

On a physical level, stretching feels good because it stimulates blood flow, which can help relieve muscle soreness and tightness. On an emotional level, stretching can also help us feel more calm and relaxed since it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and triggers the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins.

Other Reasons Why You Should Stretch

A stretching routine is best done after you’ve effectively warmed up the muscles you intend to stretch. 

Not warming up before doing a deep stretch can not only keep you from length ening the muscle fully and experiencing all the benefits of stretching, but it can also put you at a higher risk of injuries like pulled muscles.

Running apps like Joggo create personalized running plans that are adjusted to fit your unique running goals. Whether you want to go for an intense run meant to challenge your cardiovascular and muscular endurance or enjoy a lighter jog, there is something for everyone.

When done properly, regular stretching can offer a long list of benefits, like activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion functions, correcting poor posture caused by muscle imbalances, and even contributing to lower blood pressure. 

Keep reading to learn more about all of the different ways stretching can make you feel great, both mentally and physically.

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#1 Wakes up your body

Gentle static stretching done first thing in the morning is more useful than a cup of coffee when it comes to waking your body. It can lead to a greater sense of physical awareness and attunement to how you feel throughout the day. 

This increase in energy and body awareness can translate into wanting to take better care of yourself throughout the day, whether by eating properly or feeling more inspired to do more intense physical activity later in the day – even if that just means going for a brisk walk

Another benefit of stretching in the morning is that it can help relieve muscle tension you might have experienced while sleeping.

Muscle tension is what leads to things like poor posture. Having the opportunity to relax and lengthen your muscles first thing in the morning is especially important for people who spend most of their day sitting behind a desk. 

#2 Helps to stop panic attacks

Panic attacks and anxiety, in general, result from the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

This is the nervous system responsible for the fight or flight response, and when activated will result in a flood of cortisol and adrenaline – the stress hormones – being released.

This causes your blood vessels to constrict and leads to increased blood pressure, dilation of your eyes, and your body ceasing any functions not related to preparing itself to escape from danger.

Levels of cortisol and adrenaline don’t return to normal until the stress has passed. If it doesn’t, the body will continue to be flooded with higher-than-normal levels of these stress hormones, leading to inflammation and damage to cells, which causes more feelings of anxiety

When you’re trying to relieve panic attacks, which are caused by an overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system, doing light stretching and deep breathing can help you regulate your nervous system. 

Finding new ways to regulate your nervous system and limit the release of cortisol and adrenaline, especially in this fast-paced, high-stress world, is a must.

#3 Teaches proper breathing

Breathing is something we all do subconsciously, and generally, most don’t pay much attention to our breath.

Although a deeper awareness of our breathing isn’t necessary to keep us alive, deeper breathing and the subsequent raising of our blood oxygen levels can help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. 

When we feel stressed, our breathing naturally becomes more shallow, and we can feel short of breath. This causes our blood pressure and heart rate to increase, which triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline, leading to heightened feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Regular stretching with a focus on taking deeper breaths to increase the amount of oxygen circulating to all our major muscle groups can relieve stress and muscle tension and bring our bodies back into parasympathetic nervous system activation.

#4 Reduces muscular imbalance

Most exercise to keep their muscles strong. Still, a combination of strength and flexibility is more helpful in preserving our muscle strength and keeping them free of imbalances that can lead to unnecessary nerve pressure, poor posture, and cause us to feel pain when we move.

Both static and dynamic stretching helps elongate our muscle fibers, which helps to release tight muscles and ensure that one muscle doesn’t become stronger than the opposing muscle, most commonly referred to as a muscle imbalance. 

You can better understand a muscle imbalance by looking at the muscles in the left thigh. Thigh muscles are meant to be equal to each other in strength and size, putting an equal amount of pressure on the knee joint when you move.

Suppose your hamstring becomes stronger than the opposing muscle, the quadriceps. In that case, it can cause limited mobility through the knee joint and put unnecessary pressure on the tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint, eventually leading to pain and even more serious injury.

Regular stretching can help keep your muscles feeling loose and limber. It is an important part of any workout routine, especially for strength training, since it can affect mobility. 

Having tight muscles can prevent you from accessing proper exercise form, leading to a host of full-body muscle imbalances further down the line.

#5 Helps to relieve tight muscles

Stretching is considered an active recovery exercise, similar to going for a recovery run, that can help get your blood flowing and reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles. 

This increase in blood flow can help reduce any lingering muscle pain you might be experiencing due to DOMS – also known as delayed onset muscle soreness – which can last for a few days after a high-intensity workout. 

When experiencing DOMS, it’s best to avoid heavier workouts for at least 24–48 hours or until you’ve managed to relieve tension in your muscles, which is something that hopefully happens sooner rather than later since no one likes walking around stiff and sore for days after a workout.

Doing a recovery activity like stretching, possibly in the form of yin yoga, can be a great way to get back to feeling 100%. This is perfect for anyone whose goal is to work out 5 days a week since it will allow you to get back to your regularly scheduled workouts sooner than you could otherwise.

#6 Keeps muscles strong

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for adults over 65 and are often the result of muscle atrophy and poor balance.

The saying “if you don’t move it, you lose it” rings true for the body. 

If you don’t focus on creating healthy habits that maintain your full range of motion and muscular strength early on, it becomes increasingly difficult for you to reverse the effects of old age on the body.

Regular static stretching to improve blood flow to the muscles, reduce muscle tightness, and maintain a connection with the body is proven to play a part in reducing falls in geriatric populations.

Whether you’re over the age of 65 or not, it’s never too late to start creating healthier habits to support your longevity. Moving into old age while maintaining your mobility and enjoying many of the same physical activities you did while younger is priceless.

#7 Lowers blood pressure

High blood pressure results from stiffened arterial walls, which can be affected by too many stress hormones in the body. 

This loss of elasticity leads to reduced blood circulation and puts you at a higher risk of heart diseases, such as a heart attack or stroke, and can even lead to things like fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, and overall lower quality of life.

Stretching can effectively reduce the effects of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, regular stretching is proven to be effective at increasing blood flow. When the body is relaxed, your blood vessels naturally begin to dilate, which means the smooth walls of your arteries and veins relax, which allows for better blood circulation and a lowering of blood pressure. 

Another reason stretching can be so effective at lowering blood pressure is because of the switch you make to parasympathetic nervous system activation. Turning your attention to your body and elongating your breath as you stretch gives your nervous system the chance to relax. 

Since cortisol and adrenaline are two hormones that are responsible for increasing hypertension, finding new ways to limit their release can make a big difference in the health of your cardiovascular system and how relaxed you feel every day. 

A Word From Our Coach

It’s not always easy to know how many days a week you should work out since heavy exercise can be hard on the body. Stretching, on the other hand, is restorative in nature, meaning it helps to alleviate the stress exercise puts on your body.

This means you can stretch every day without having to worry about overdoing it, and many studies suggest that stretching is best done 2–3 times a week, though if you really want to see changes to your flexibility, it’s better to do light stretching 5–7 days a week.

This is an often overlooked part of any training routine that not only affects athletic performance but can also have a big impact on mental health and help reduce any negative symptoms of a more sedentary lifestyle.

Bottom Line

Stretching provides various physical benefits that are perfect for anyone who does regular exercise, like releasing tight muscles, reducing muscle soreness, preventing muscle imbalances, and more. 

It’s also an effective way to reduce hypertension and combat high blood pressure, which, when stress is at an all-time high and many people live a more sedentary lifestyle, can’t be overlooked.

Another benefit of stretching is that it can help you switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system activation. This not only affects the body by limiting the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline but also contributes to greater feelings of peace and calm.

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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