How long do I need to stretch for?
Results of long term studies with healthy humans between the age 21 and 39 have shown that after 6 weeks the people who stretched for THIRTY seconds per muscle EVERY DAY were able to increase their mobility more than the people that stretched fifteen seconds per muscle per day. Stretching for 15 seconds made no significant changes and stretching for 60 seconds was no more beneficial than stretching for 30 seconds during a static stretch.
Influencing factors when stretching:
the presence of scar tissue
activity prior to the stretch
collagen/elastic content (varies with age)
hydration/dehydration of the soft tissues
medical conditions (diabetes, connective tissue disorders, smoking)
Thirty seconds equates to 5 slow long inhales and exhales which helps tap into your parasympathetic nervous system which is your "rest and digest" system. It inhibits the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and composed state.
Why should I bother to stretch anyway?
1. Decreased stress
2. Reduced pain and stiffness
3. Increased range of movement
4. Improved muscular function
5. Reduced risk of injury
6. Enhanced performance
7. Enhanced blood flow and circulation
8. Minimise wear and tear on joints
Studies have shown the possibility that pre-exercise STATIC stretching may reduce the efficiency and strength of the muscles. DYNAMIC stretching (moving) prepares your body for the activity better by preparing your neurological system, warming up your muscles, raising your heart rate, increasing blood flow to the muscles and to preparing mentally and physically for the intended exercise.
Why do I need to take slow, deep breaths when I stretch or do self-myofasial release?
Deliberately changing your breathing patterns during the different phases of the stretching process helps the body and the mind learn the essential relaxation aspect. Electromyograph studies have shown that tension increases slightly in all the muscles in the body each time you breathe in, and reduces slightly each time you breathe out. By focusing your attention on the sensations of a breath out each time you stretch, you will enhance this natural physiological action. You cannot force muscles to relax and you cannot force them to stretch. You can, however, teach them how to behave more as you wish with a focus on breathing and tapping into your neurological system to allow the body to 'let go'.