In the last blog, we covered how stretching helps your Lymph System function, which helps your immune system reduce the effects of being still and stressed. The second benefit of stretching you may not know about is its effects on the Fascia System. Fascia is the connective tissue that extends to every structure of the body. It intertwines and surrounds all organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibers, and enables all body systems to communicate with one another to maintain health of the body and mind.(1)
Fascia responds to mechanical forces, meaning it changes with how you hold your body during the day. It even changes with your emotions! The above image is from a video called Strolling Under the Skin, that shows what this connective tissue looks like and how it changes with movement (this is a two-minute clip of a longer video also available for viewing). I find it helpful to hold the image of this webbing connecting the whole body when stretching. It is a reminder that when you stretch one area, you are not just stretching a muscle, you are restoring and re-connecting your whole-person.
The important point is that fascia is always changing and adapting to what is happening in your body and brain moment by moment. Stretching helps the fascia restore its elasticity instantly, leaving you feeling more comfortable, free to move easier. The effects seem to last for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, which is another reason why stretching is best done as movement breaks through your day.
In addition we are just beginning to understand the importance of the cells in the fascia system for our health, immune system function, and mental well-being. Stretching is one of the most accessible ways to help your fascia system, and thus your whole body.
Take a stretch break now, in a way that feels good (not painful), and notice the effects on your whole-person. There is still so much more we do not know about this system in the body. As I learn more, I will share it here on Keep Moving Weekly. In the mean time, keep taking those stretch breaks knowing the effects stretch way beyond your muscles.
Keep Moving, Be Well,