Whether you workout at a gym, run trails, bike mountains, walk around the block or sit at a desk for hours, fitness and wellness experts remind us that stretching is an important part of staying healthy. It’s easy to forget to stretch especially when the results are often not as visible as weight lifting or as spectacular as crossing a finish line. But the benefits of a good stretch can do as much to benefit your overall health and well-being as regular exercise and a healthful diet.
Stretching can lead to better posture, fewer aches and pains, greater confidence, less stress, increased flexibility and a cheerier outlook on life. Stretching releases muscle tension, increases blood flow and circulation and sends oxygen throughout the body.
When thinking about stretching most folks think about the back or hamstrings, but there are many body parts that benefit from a good stretch besides the obvious tight muscles. One of the newest methods of stretching is to work with a therapist for a total body stretch. This form of stretch therapy can equal and even surpass the feelings of deep relaxation and rejuvenation that one feels after a deep tissue massage.
Mark Love, owner of Massage Envy in Flagstaff and Prescott, explains how stretch therapy, specifically the Streto Method, works.
"Stretch therapy is a series of customized stretches that dynamic, static, passive and active poses customized for you to attaining length and movement of your muscles and joints in daily activities and recovery from injuries. Specially trained massage therapists work with people of all fitness levels during a total body stretching session.
One of the most popular and proven techniques is the Streto Method.This highly effective, therapist-led technique is based on research and best practices which show that stretch techniques from that begin at the scalp and neck and move downward toward the feet offers numerous benefits to the mind and the body."
The Streto Method is based on the concept that “where your mind goes, the body will follow” and is the basis for starting the total body stretch session at the head.
"Since muscle function is controlled through the nervous system and since much of our stress and tension is a result of our thoughts that keep us from relaxing, it only makes sense to start with the control center of the body - the head and mind," Love said. "Starting with the head and neck helps to relax the nerves and muscles and calm the thoughts that will allow the rest of the body to respond to the therapy. Relax the mind and the body will follow."
The Streto Method combines the latest stretch research with relaxation techniques inspired by yoga and meditation. Deep, synchronized breathing combined with active stretching relaxes and invigorates the mind and body. Each stretch builds on the others to provide a total body experience and each session is customized to meet individual needs.
How can assisted stretching enhance your health, performance and mood? Here are just a few ways:
Flexibility means greater mobility and less stress on muscles during workouts and daily activities.
Range of motion improves in the joints as the body’s natural lubricants are released; reach for the top shelf or doing a favorite dance with freer movements and fewer restrictions.
Posture shapes up as flexibility improves, promoting muscular balance - stand taller, sitter straighter, walk with pride.
Blood flow is enhanced when muscles relax and the body straightens. More blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients getting to the muscles, joints, connective tissue and smaller blood vessels, resulting in more energy, and less pain.
Smooth movements come with greater flexibility and increased blood flow. This means better muscle coordination, free joints and support to move and groove.
Performance and productivity are boosted, whether it is lifting groceries, weekend warrior activities, sitting at a desk all day or training for the Olympics.
Keep the body and mind young through active stretches that result in a more relaxed and stronger mental, physical and emotional well-being. Decreased physical limitations mean doing activities that keep us young.
Be at the top of your game with the improved flexibility and mobility, which means greater strength, speed, power, agility and endurance so you can do more of what you love.
Decrease injuries and increase recovery times by promoting blood flow, keeping the joints moving and strengthening surrounding muscles and tissues.
Stretch therapy can be added to a standard massage session or can be a stand-alone treatment. Ask your massage therapist if he or she offers stretch therapy alongside massage therapy.
Is there a health topic you would like to know more about? Contact Starla S. Collins, health writer and public relations expert, at StarlaSCollins@gmail.com.