How does stretching work? What does it do to the human body?



How does stretching work? What does it do to the human body?

In: Biology

Stretching improves circulation by increasing blood flow to your muscles. Why most people when they wake up yawn and stretch. It improves circulation helps the body recover faster. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. … Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury

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Muscles will shorten and start to stick to each other when they are at rest or subject to minimal movement. Stretching takes the muscles through their full range of movement, and sometimes a bit beyond. This keeps the fibrous connections that can develop between sliding surfaces at a minimum, and can help improve range of motion by lengthening any shortened fibres in the muscles that have resulted from the damage and repair cycle of exercise and exertion.

Stretching improves efficiency across the range of movement you already possess. Technically your muscles don’t really get that much longer – I mean, pull your finger and see how much longer it gets? Similarly, someone who does yoga should have hamstrings pooling out the back of their leg if muscles really got *that* much longer through stretching.

The feelings of stretching is called the stretch reflex, and your ability to be with that feeling is your stretch tolerance. The stretch reflex is produced by your nervous system and is essentially warning you not to overdo it. You could trigger the same feeling if you were to slip on ice – it would inspire a contraction to prevent over-stretching.

When you breathe consciously, you calm down your nervous system, and that calming effects calms down the stretch reflex response. It’s less that your muscles are getting longer and more that the feeling is being toned down.

Stretching is thus really hard to study because it doesn’t have the same measurable electrical forces like muscle contractions. We don’t even know what an optimal amount of stretching is – how long, what frequency, whatever.

But it definitely plays a role in tissue maintenance and pain management, since stretching and conscious breathing is a natural analgesic (pain alleviation).