It's easy to shrug off your pre-workout stretch if you're short on time and are eager to get to pumping iron or sweating on the treadmill. Instead of thinking of stretching as a way to lessen the risk of hurting yourself, however, think of it as a pleasurable activity. As you stretch, your body releases endorphins that can quickly improve your mood and slough off feelings of stress and depression.
Exercise and Endorphins
Most forms of exercise, regardless of their level of intensity, cause your body to release endorphins, according to MayoClinic.com. Endorphins are brain chemicals that MayoClinic.com calls "feel-good neurotransmitters." In an article on "Huffington Post," trainer Kristin Anderson notes stretching's long list of health benefits, including the release of endorphins. When your body releases endorphins, you'll often experience a feeling of joy; runners refer to that feeling as a "runner's high."
Depression and Stretching
When you're mildly or severely depressed or stressed, it's temping to avoid all forms of exercise, but MayoClinic.com suggests attempting some light exercise. Stretching is an ideal light exercise; it doesn't require equipment and is simple to perform in the comfort of your home. In addition to releasing endorphins, you might experience an elevated mood because exercise can reduce chemicals in your body that increase the symptoms of depression, according to MayoClinic.com.
Whether you're stretching solely to release some endorphins or to get ready for more vigorous exercise, don't always stretch the same way. If you're performing a pre-workout routine, use dynamic stretches. This type of stretch not only prepares your muscles for the workout, but also elevates your body temperature. Dynamic stretches are rapid in nature and include moves like lunges and power skipping. After your workout, use static stretches to relax your muscles. This type of stretch is calm and requires you to hold each pose for about 30 seconds.
Stretching might feel simple, but its benefits are wide ranging. By stretching for just a few minutes daily, you'll not only release endorphins to improve your mental well-being, but also help your posture and increase your flexibility for a variety of activities. Stretching is important whether you're an athlete or have a sedentary lifestyle. If you're active, stretching keeps your muscles limber and healthy for sports; if you're inactive, stretching can limit the chance of straining a muscle during everyday activities.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.