By Erin Irish
There are significant benefits to stretching. The most obvious is prevention and decreased risk of serious injury to the body while participating in exercise, sporting events or normal, everyday activities. Stretching allows for increased blood supply and nutrients to muscles and joints which results in increased movement efficiency. Neuromuscular coordination, cooperation between muscles and nerves, is increased, and kinesthetic awareness is improved. Kinesthetic awareness is how you sense your body at any given moment. When kinesthetic awareness is low, an individual has trouble recognizing tension in muscles. Tense muscles do not move with ease and can cause problems with balance and posture. A person may even experience extreme pain in an area of the body, say the neck or the back, and think that there is a problem that requires medicine, i.e., pain relievers, or even more extreme attention, like surgery. It is possible that the right kind of stretching, over time, would alleviate the pain! In a case like this, muscle tension was the problem, but a low kinesthetic awareness caused the person not to “feel” the tension. Countless surgeries to backs, shoulders, elbows, etc., are performed annually due to conditions possibly resulting from years of undetected, uncorrected muscle tension. The bottom line is that stretching enhances flexibility, and flexibility is not about being able to contort the body or put it in extreme positions, rather, it is about mobility, being able to move when you want and how you want. So, if you have places to go and things to do…get to stretching!