Have you ever felt a wave of pleasure washing over you when you wake up and stretch your arms wide? Or perhaps you find solace in a few minutes of stretching after a strenuous workout, and the world begins to feel right again.
Most of us have experienced a soothing sensation after a moment of stretching. But what’s the secret behind this seemingly peaceful phenomenon? Why does stretching feel good?
Below, we’ll explore 6 psychological and physiological reasons behind the joy of stretching.
6 Reasons Stretching Feels Good
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends stretching at least twice a week for 60 seconds.
Stretching brings relief as if all the tension is melting away. You can almost feel your muscles sigh in contentment. This often makes people question the underlying phenomenon that makes this activity feel good.
Here are 6 common reasons stretching brings comfort.
1 - Boosts Circulation
The National Library of Medicine mentions that our body responds by improving blood flow when we move our muscles. Here’s how better blood flow helps.
- When we stretch, our muscles demand more oxygen to support this activity. This increased oxygen supply promotes energy production and muscle function. As a result, we feel refreshed.
- Stretching and boosted circulation also facilitate the transport of nutrients to muscle tissues. Nutrients like amino acids, glucose, and electrolytes are critical for muscle health. Their absorption henceforth enhances the sense of vitality.
- Enhanced blood flow also removes metabolic waste products like lactic acid from muscles, which may otherwise lead to discomfort and soreness. This relief contributes to the feelings of relaxation.
2 - Releases Endorphins
Our central nervous system and pituitary gland release endorphins that work as neurotransmitters. Research shows that they have better pain-relieving properties than morphine.
Generally, endorphins are released after activities like eating and exercising. Although there’s minimal research on whether stretching releases endorphins, some believe it may have pain-relieving effects since a study shows stretching might help relieve menstruation pain.
The pain-alleviating effects are thought to be due to the production of beta-endorphins and the relaxation of blood vessels.
3 - Alleviates Muscle Tension
Studies show that stretching before and after exercising helps reduce muscle soreness. This implies that stretching decreases muscle tension and provides relief and comfort. Here are a few reasons why.
- Stretching involves elongating muscle fibers, which directly addresses the tension in muscles. As a result, it promotes muscle relaxation and a sense of relief. (Read more on how to release chronically tight muscles.)
- It allows you to target specific areas of muscle tension. Gently stretching and massaging these spots helps release tension and reduce pain.
You can enroll in a Flexible Back Program if you seek to build long-lasting flexibility. Not only will you experience better flexibility, but you’ll also feel your energy levels soaring.
4 - Enhances Flexibility
Research highlights that regular stretching may help boost flexibility, especially for sedentary people. Besides, since our flexibility naturally decreases with aging, stretching helps improve it. Here’s how it enhances flexibility and makes us feel good.
- When you stretch, you lengthen a muscle's individual fibers. Consistent stretching leads to better-resting muscle length. This enhanced length lets the muscle stretch further before reaching its limit, leading to improved flexibility.
- Stretching may stimulate the production of synovial fluid - a fluid that lubricates joints. Lubricated joints move freely, which leads to a better overall range of motion. (Read more about the role of synovial fluid in how to pop your lower back.)
5 - Activates Parasympathetic Nervous System
Our Parasympathetic Nervous System plays a role in reducing stress and allowing our body to relax. Studies reveal that stretching helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system, consequently inducing feelings of calmness and comfort.
This implies that because stretching plays a role in alleviating stress, it could be another reason it makes us feel good.
Besides, stretching promotes the relaxation response, which is the opposite of the “fight or flight” response activated during the sympathetic nervous system.
When we stretch, our body perceives it as a form of relaxation and self-care, activating the parasympathetic nervous system and reducing stress hormones like cortisol.
6 - Improves Posture
Muscle tension often takes a toll on our posture. For instance, it may pull our spine into a position that puts unnecessary pressure on our neck, back, and other core muscles.
Research shows that regular stretching combined with major strengthening exercises may help enhance poor posture.
As such, it reduces strain on joints and muscles. This alignment also increases circulation and breathing and eases discomfort, contributing to our well-being.
Tips for Safe Stretches
Although stretching offers numerous perks, correctly doing it is crucial to maximize its benefits primarily because improper techniques can adversely affect your body. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you plan to embark on this journey.
Different Types of Stretches
One of the best things about stretching is that you do not need to invest in any special equipment to begin your journey. Instead, you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Here are 3 types of stretches you can incorporate into your daily life.
The delightful sensation after a stretch often leaves us wondering, “Why does stretching feel good?”
When we stretch, our muscles elongate and blood flow increases.
Consequently, our bodies respond by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and alleviates stress.
Stretching also offers numerous physical benefits, like better flexibility and improved posture.
Overall, this activity demonstrates a powerful connection between mind and body and provides us with a simple yet effective tool to nurture our well-being.
So, consider adding a few stretches to your daily routine to boost your overall well-being - your body will thank you.
What Does a Good Stretch Feel Like?
A good stretch feels like a satisfying, gentle pull in your muscles.
You might notice improved blood flow, warmth, and a sense of relief as your body loosens up. It’s a rejuvenating and refreshing pause in your day.
What Happens If You Stretch Everyday?
Daily stretching reduces muscle tension, enhances flexibility, and improves posture. In fact, Harvard Medical School suggests that occasional stretching has only short-lived benefits.
Therefore, indulging in this activity regularly will do the trick if you seek to reap the rewards of stretching.
Does Stretching Burn Calories?
Stretching itself doesn’t burn calories. Although it slightly increases blood flow and metabolic rate, the calorie burn is significantly less compared to strenuous activities like strength training and cardio.
Stretching is primarily used to relieve muscle tension and improve overall well-being.