When you think of stretching exercises, what do you imagine? If the thought of stretching sounds boring, a waste of time, or something you just are not flexible enough to do, let’s take a new look at stretching and three benefits you may not know.
The science of stretching lags behind the research on other types of exercise. With less facts, we have more myths. One of the biggest myths is that stretching is about making muscles longer. The fact is, stretching has less to do with your muscles and more to do with three other parts of your body; your nervous system, fascia system, and lymph system.
We will take a look at what happens in your body when you stretch over three blogs because with more and more research on stretching, there is so much great information to share.
Lets start by talking about the Lymph System
Lymph is the fluid part of your blood. The vessels run right alongside your blood vessels. (see image). Lymph vessels, just like blood vessels are spread out throughout your whole body.
The lymphatic system’s job is to maintain a healthy immune system by absorbing fluid from the blood so it can be transported to the spleen. The spleen acts as a filter, helping your body fight infection and detecting potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses. Your spleen and your lymph nodes create white blood cells to defend your body against these ‘invaders’.
However, this important system in the body needs you to move for all that to happen. Unlike the circulatory system, your lymph system does not have its own pump. It relies on movement to move the lymph fluid through the body. Stretching can provide that movement instantly, even in the smallest vessels in the body.
The lymph system is one of the big reasons‘sitting disease’is a health concern. But the name is misleading. The truth is, sitting is not the problem. The health strain on the body comes from the combination of being still and stressed.
Stillness keeps your lymph system from working at its best. Stress adds to the inflammation in your body as it prepares your body for movement to deal with the stressor. So the combination of stillness and stressed allows inflammation, the precursor for many lifestyle diseases, to build up.
For this reason, stretching, not just taking steps, is a great way to lower your risks from prolonged sitting. Unlike ‘getting steps, stretching reaches even the smallest parts of your body where inflammation can build up. If you just focus on getting steps you might be tempted to multitask them, rather than take a break from stress. When done mindfully, stretching gives your mind a break
from the stress, giving your body a chance to clear inflammation.
Give it a try this week. When you have a time you are still for a while, take a big morning style stretch and imagine how your muscles are pushing on your lymph vessels giving them help with doing their job!
Keep moving, Be Well,