Most people have limited time to work out and want to get the most bang for their buck out of each sweat session. But research shows that missing one important step in your fitness routine can cost you in the long run. By skipping out on stretching, you could be setting yourself up for discomfort, pain, or even serious injury.
All the parts of your body, from your muscles to your bones to your organs, are surrounded by a stretchy mesh of connective tissue called fascia. This fibrous webbing is a series of layers made up of collagen with water in between that help provide structure for everything inside of you. It acts like a safety net for your muscles and joints by wrapping around them and helping them move properly without going too far in the wrong direction and tearing. When your fascia is healthy, it has a smooth, flexible texture that allows your muscles to easily slide past one another without tearing. However, certain things can cause your fascia to lose its flexibility and become sticky or even hard (via Healthline).
Stretching affects more than you think
Your muscles’ ability to stretch and contract all depends on the condition of the fascia that surrounds them. If the fascia is healthy, it acts like a brand new rubber band that stretches but returns to its original shape. That way your muscles can’t stretch to the point of injury or contract too tightly for too long (via Well+Good). But if you don’t take care of your fascia, it can actually harden around your muscles, preventing them from stretching out and keeping them in a contracted, often painful state.
So how can stretching eliminate damage to your fascia and help keep your muscles loose? When your muscles are tight, the fascia around them will harden and form tiny balls of collagen called adhesions. These adhesions are no longer smooth and slick and can start sticking to other tissue, causing misalignment and restricting motion. Stretching your muscles helps eliminate the tightness that causes the surrounding fascia to harden and restrict your movement or even cause pain and injury.
When you stretch the right way for the right amount of time, your range of motion increases. You can prevent injuries not only to the muscles that you stretch, but to other parts of your body that are connected to that area through the network of fascia (via Shape). By taking time to properly stretch, you’ll help keep your fascia, muscles, and body moving and pain-free.
Source: Read Full Article