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Stretch It Out

A woman seated on a yoga mat stretching to the side

7 Reasons Why Your Body Will Thank You

Stretching: the underappreciated, often-overlooked aspect of exercise. You've probably been doing it since elementary school P.E. Class, when your teacher tested flexibility with the sit-and-reach, but you may be underestimating how much regular stretching pays off. It's time to give stretching the time and effort it deserves. “The importance of stretching goes a lot farther than being able to say, 'I can touch my toes,'”, says Dr. Frank LeDonne, a chiropractor, who treats dozens of patients each day.

Reason #1 to stretch: it prevents injuries. “It would be hard to separate any injury I see from stretching at some level,” says Dr. LeDonne. “Every day I see patients with serious conditions like disc injuries that could have been prevented.”

But there are so many other reasons to love a good stretch (also- it feels so good!) Stretching increases flexibility. Making it a part of your daily routine will make everyday movements easier, and will help keep you active as you age.

If you're not convinced yet, you should do it for the bragging rights. Stretching improves athletic performance, helping to get your muscles ready for physical activity. If you're not vying for your spot on the Wheaties box, better posture is something we can all strive for. Aches and pains and misalignment can cause us to gradually hunch over. Stretching muscles in the shoulders, neck, and back improves alignment, making it easier to stand tall with ease and confidence.

Stretching can also slow your body's aging process by improving the longevity of your joints. Muscles that are stretched can perform at peak levels, taking pressure off your joints, and allowing them to last longer. “In a day and age when everyone is living longer and playing harder,” explains Dr. LeDonne, “it is more important than ever to give our bodies every edge we can.”

By now you've probably gotten the point: stretching is realllllly good for you, but just to mention two more reasons why you should stretch: it helps sore muscles, and relieves stress. Whether the pains you're feeling are coming from your body or your mind, take a minute to release them. Listen to your body, and move in the way that feels good to you. Roll your neck and shoulders, reach down to your toes, twist your spine... basically, you do you. You know best what your body needs.

So basically, it's not a stretch (see what we did there?) to say this could be the easiest— and best— change you make this year. “Stretching doesn’t take hours to do, a gym membership, or a PhD in exercise physiology,” says Dr. LeDonne. “There is no excuse why we all shouldn’t take a little time out of our day to do it.”

PROTIP:

Warm up before you stretch— especially in the morning or if you have been sitting still for awhile. “So many times I'll have a patient tell me he woke in the morning, touched his toes to stretch, and threw his back out,” warns Dr. LeDonne. “I am always telling my patients, make sure you are properly warmed up before stretching.” Get moving— walk around and warm up your muscles and lubricate your discs, tendons and ligaments first.