Quite many times one can hear about stretching exercises and the importance of them though it is seldom really explained why they are so important. People who practise sports know that they are, or at least can experience that (good) trainers of quite diverse kinds of sports are all enthusiastic to have them practised. But in fact everybody should regularly do stretching exercises, and those who do not practise sports, all the more.
There is not one but three good reasons to do that.
1. Stretching extends the muscles and tendons, making them more flexible.
As we move, muscles and tendons contract and extend every now and then and this is their normal way of functioning. But they can easily stiffen and shorten, either by lack of movement or due to unilateral strain (there is not much difference between the two, regarding the result) and in such a condition any sudden movement, even a relatively mild one, may result in a sprain or even a rupture of them. And of course, not only sportsmen are subject to it. It can happen at any time to anyone during the everyday activities.
As a consequence of stiffened and shortened muscles and tendons, joints will have a narrower angle of motion, and the restriction of their movements may also cause, at a sudden movement, a sprain of their ligaments or worse, a dislocation.
Modern lifestyle generally involves little motion and much sitting (we sit at work, at school, at the dining table, in the cinema or theatre, at parties or having a conversation with friends, before the computer, browsing the net, playing games or, alas! writing an article, etc.). Sitting position is quite harmful from this point of view as it considerably shortens the muscles and tendons in the legs and hips, and the damage is aggravated if one has the habit of sitting with a hunched back and with the legs pulled under himself or herself. This way, in addition to the shortening of even more muscles, e. g. those of the spinal column, too, the blood circulation also tends to stagnate. If the tissues do not receive enough nutrients and oxygen, they will considerably weaken and after a while, begin to waste away. Thus the danger of injury multiplies.
2. No quick motion, as well as no coordinated, graceful motion exist without flexible muscles and tendons.
Say, why should I do the splits or other stretching exercises when I never use such (extreme) postures in my normal life?
Without a wide angle of motion of the joints, and without a good extendibility of muscles and tendons our motion becomes slow and awkward. We can see many people in the street who move in a tired and exhausted way, responding very slowly when the traffic lamps change or something is to be avoided. They move clumsily and with difficulties. This is, regrettably, the way how the majority of city dwellers move even at a very young age. Coordinated, smooth and graceful motion, however, as well as good reflexes and swift reactions, are not only important at practising sports. We appear more attractive, more manly or womanly by an outstanding ability of motion, and, again, we can much more easily evade dangerous situations in the traffic or elsewhere.
3. Tension in muscles and other tissues hinder the energy flow in the body. For a continuous and balanced energy flow muscles should regularly be extended by stretching.
The energy flow, and its vital importance for proper functioning of the body and its organs, is now well-known in western science, too. But somehow its relation to muscle tensions and stretching is not propagated at all. When we extend the muscles they relax, and tensions dissipate, allowing a healthy energy flow what, in turn, invigorates physiological functions. Inadequate energy supply, just like inadequate blood supply, causes weakening and wasting away of the bodily tissues, as well as reduced and unbalanced physiological processes, leading to the development of virtually any possible illness.
Regular stretching exercises may prevent any of the adverse consequences above.