Any dog or cat owner has seen their beloved pet wake from a nap, stretch their legs out, and let out a big yawn. Even though they may go right back to sleep, that stretch works out the muscles, increases blood flow, and generally wakes the body up. It prepares the body if there’s suddenly a “fight or flight” situation.
Of course, Fido or Felix rarely have to defend themselves from enemies while napping on the couch. But in the wild, animals – both predator and prey – need to be able to act on a moment’s notice. Racing after a meal, or keep from being that meal, is just a daily fact of life.
The situation isn’t so dire for humans. Still, we instinctively stretch after waking up or if we’ve been sitting too long. We don’t need to suddenly run away from a tiger while working in a cubicle, but it does wake the body up and make us feel better. Along with waking up the body, there are mental benefits to stretching that are important.
Is Stretching Good For My Mental Health?
Stretching is good for your mental health, it also relieves tension, reduces stress, and increases blood circulation, even if for a short period of time. And it just feels good! Reaching for the sky and exhaling at the end of a stretch releases endorphins, chemicals that help reduce the feelings of pain.
Endorphins also create a positive physical and mental feeling in the body when released. While almost any stretch will do, there are yoga and pilates classes designed around this idea. A stretching routine usually involves flexing or stretching muscles to improve elasticity. Improved mental health is just a happy side effect.
One of the easiest stretches can be done while sitting down. While keeping your hands together, push towards the ceiling, slowly arch your back, and tilt your head back. Hold for five or ten seconds with controlled breathing. Then slowly lower your arms.
This will stretch your arms, neck, shoulders, and back. There are a million different types of stretches for every type of ability. Dynamic stretches for athletes preparing for competition, or more methodical stretching exercises to prepare the weekend warrior for physical activity.
What other health benefits from stretching?
Increases range of motion/Increases your flexibility
By spending a few minutes a day stretching, you will be able to increase the ways your body can move, especially at the core. In turn, this will improve your posture, balance, and overall well-being. You will be able to move in ways you never thought possible before bariatric surgery.
Increases blood flow to muscles
As muscles begin to work, the body recognizes the need for more blood to be pumped to those muscles. Delivering important nutrients to muscles, the blood also takes away the waste (lactic acid) the muscles create during a workout. In fact, muscles take over the body at this point, overriding blood being sent to other organs, such as kidneys and stomach.
Prepares Your Muscles
Without warming up first, sudden rigorous physical activity can strain the muscles. It is recommended to do some light physical activity to get the heart rate going, then stretch while the body is warm. Stretching involves getting the major muscles groups ready to go, such as the legs, arms, and lower back.
Many injuries happen when the body is not prepared for strenuous activity. If the muscles aren’t warmed up, they won’t be able to handle the flood of new blood, which could cause them to fail. Pulled or strained muscles can keep you out of action for a day or two and even weeks at a time.
A Stretch For Everyone
After bariatric surgery, stretching is one of the first activities that can be done almost immediately. For 99 percent of our surgeries, WeightWise uses the laparoscopic method, a series of smaller incisions that allow for faster healing. You’ll be up and walking – and stretching – the same day in most cases.
But be careful not to overdo it. Our exercise physiologists will outline a plan specifically for your situation. While you won’t be playing full-court basketball in a week or two, your plan is designed to build your muscles, increase your flexibility, and improve your stamina. Watch our free online seminar or contact us today to learn more about our program.