The benefits of stretching and why it feels so good

Without realizing it, many of us start our day by stretching before we even get out of bed.

Involuntary stretching of your muscles is called pandiculation. It’s a behavior seen in most types of animals to relieve muscle tension.

Few activities feel better after a period of inactivity than stretching. Stretching reduces your risk of getting injured, can induce a feeling of calmness, and is even thought to improve your circulation.

 Why does stretching feel good?

Humans have a natural tendency to avoid things that cause pain and to seek activities that feel good. Stretching is no exception. Your body’s natural reward system makes stretching feel good to motivate you to keep your muscles at optimal tension.

Here’s a closer look at the reasons why stretching feels good. 

Improved circulation

When you stretch a muscle, your body responds by increasing blood flow to that area. The blood vessels around the targeted muscle widen to allow more blood to flow through, and your heart starts pumping more blood.

This increase in blood flow allows the muscle or muscles you’re stretching to receive more oxygen and to get rid of metabolic waste products.

Parasympathetic activation

Research has shown that static stretching activates your parasympathetic nervous system and inhibits activation of your sympathetic nervous system.

Your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for your rest and digestion functions. It can also help induce feelings of calmness and relaxation.

Endorphin release

Endorphins are chemicals produced by your central nervous system and pituitary gland that function as neurotransmitters. They have greater pain-relieving effects than morphine and cause a feeling of euphoria when they bind with receptors in your brain.

Endorphins are part of your body’s natural reward system and are released after activities like exercise, sex, eating, and drinking.

Simple daily stretches

One of the great things about stretching is that you don’t need any special equipment to do it. Stretching can be done anywhere at any time.

Here are three key stretches that can help relieve tension and tightness in many of the major muscle groups in your body.

Low Lunge

Helps stretch the muscles in your hips, groin, thighs, and core.

Forward Bend

Helps stretch your back, groin, and the backs of your legs.

Cobra Pose

Opens up and stretches muscles of your chest, abs, neck and shoulders.