The 5 Amazing Benefits of Stretching
Dancers know better than anyone about the benefits that stretching can bring. However, these benefits go well beyond warm-ups and cool-downs during exercise – and stretching isn’t just for dancers and athletes. In fact, by taking as little as five minutes to stretch, you’ll build a healthier mind and body.
Introducing some simple stretches into your routine can bring a huge array of benefits, from brighter skin and less stress to better flexibility and healthier bones.The 5 benefits of stretching
Warming up the body can go a long way in helping you feel better both physically and mentally. Here are just some of the benefits stretching brings:
1. Flexible muscles
The biggest benefit of stretching is the effect on your muscles. This helps keep you safe and flexible during exercise and can also lead to a healthier feeling body and joints when you’re moving around throughout the day.
Stretching regularly keeps muscles warmed up and supple, reducing the chance of pulled muscles or injury. It also helps with extension and movement, allowing you to move freely and flexibly.
2. Better blood flow
Any kind of movement helps increase blood flow throughout the body. As stretching also specifically targets muscles, it is ideal for overall muscle growth and blood flow. Dr Rosmy Barrios, MD, a medical advisor for the Health Reporter, explains:
“People who stretch regularly have good muscle growth and optimum blood flow throughout the body. This means all their organs get a proper supply of oxygenated blood, which is great for overall health.”
3. Improved posture
If you’re sitting at a desk or in the same position all day, your posture can suffer. This is due to your back and chest muscles shortening and becoming tight because of a lack of movement.
Regular stretching helps bring your spine back into the correct upright position while also strengthening and loosening the muscles in your back and shoulders, helping you improve your posture. As an added bonus, regularly stretching these muscles reduces tension and pain – helping you say goodbye to those pesky back and shoulder aches!
4. Better skin
The benefits of stretching can even extend as far as the skin, as Dr Rosmy Barrios explains:
“One of the major benefits of stretching is that it improves blood flow to the skin. As a result of this improved blood flow, your skin is able to get essential nutrients and oxygen, which help cleanse and strengthen your skin.
“It also relieves stress, which is good news for your skin too. Stress is directly linked to skin inflammation and spikes cortisol levels in your blood, which stimulates oil production in your skin, leading to acne. Since stretching reduces stress, it directly benefits your skin.”
5. Stress release
Any kind of movement works wonders for reducing stress, and stretching can be a great, mindful way to check in with yourself in the morning and help set you up for the day.
Stretching regularly can increase levels of serotonin in the body. This hormone helps stabilise moods, increasing happiness and reducing stress. So, as well as all the wonderful physical benefits stretching brings, it can also help you enjoy a happier, healthier mind.
3 simple stretches everyone can do from a Broadway Physical Therapist
So, we’ve covered all the reasons stretching is great for you. But where do you get started when it comes to stretching?
We chatted to Dr Megan Wise, a Broadway Physical Therapist who has worked with dancers from Wicked and Hamilton as well as the American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, who explained that there are various stretches, and they all serve different purposes. She explains:
“Everyone needs their own special combination of movements. For example, the average dancer typically over-relies on passive stretching, when more dynamic mobility exercises would be more beneficial for their joints and muscles when it comes to performance and technique. Focusing more on dynamic stretching can be helpful for tissue health and improving your strength and power while also maintaining your flexibility.
Passive stretching is extremely helpful for relaxation and recalibrating your nervous system, so it can be an excellent form of recovery physically and mentally.”
Dr Wise also recommended three great exercises for those looking to feel the benefits of stretching. She explains:
“These are mobility drills that give you increased flexibility and the strength to maintain it or even improve upon it over time. The best part about these is that they're helpful for everyone because they focus on the areas that seem to be a problem for people of any age and any profession. They're also safe and helpful for people who are hypermobile.”
1. The kneeling wall rotation
Dr Wise explains that people have stiffness in their mid-back that contributes to neck, lower back and even knee pain. She recommends the ‘kneeling wall rotation’ stretch to say goodbye to this pain for good. To carry out this stretch:
- “Use a yoga block or something of similar size to make this a really good movement for your whole body. This stretch targets your upper body rotation and your hips.
- “Start next to a wall, so one hip and shoulder are touching it; bring the outside leg forward so you're in a half-kneeling position and wedge a block between that knee and the wall.
- “Keeping your lower body still, reach your outside arm forward and around so that your head, shoulders, and upper body rotate away from the wall. The goal is to have the back of both shoulders touching the wall without pain and without moving your legs. You’ll want to repeat this upper body rotation movement slowly for several breaths.”
2. The mermaid stretch
The second stretch is the ‘mermaid stretch’, which targets your hip rotation and upper body side bend. For this stretch:
- “Begin in a z-sit position on the floor (one leg bent in front of you, and one leg bent to the side and behind you). This can be quite difficult for people with tight hips, so you may need to sit on yoga blocks or pillows to achieve the position. You can also carry out this stretch while sitting on a chair.
- “Side bend your upper body in the direction of your front leg, reaching the opposite arm long overhead for more stretch of the side body. You can also side bend the other direction, towards your back leg. Keep the lower body still and coordinate the movement with your breathing.”
3. The foot doorway stretch
The final expert-recommend stretch from Dr Wise is the foot doorway stretch. This stretch targets your big toe extension and helps your ankle too, making it especially useful for dancers. To carry out this stretch:
- “It is best to do this without shoes on. In standing, lift your toes and place the bottom side of your big toe against a door frame. Keep your heel and the ball of the foot on the floor and as close to the door frame as possible (if your toe is very stiff, it may not lift very high).
- “Bend your knee to increase the stretch through your toe, under the foot, and potentially into the calf. You can hold this position for a few breaths and move in and out of the position a few times slowly.”
Dr Wise adds that stretching is different for everyone – what works best for one person may not work as well for another, so it’s important to work with your body and see what benefits you. Dr Wise tells us:
“It's important to note that stretching comes in many forms and is individual. Some stretches feel good on some people and feel bad on others, just like some stretches are helpful for certain goals and harmful for others. The key is to find the balance that works for you and to move in a variety of ways.”
If you’re a dancer looking for dance-specific stretches, you can also explore our article of 5 Go-To Stretches for Dancers. Or, if you’re looking to stock up on your dance supplies, explore our collection of ballet shoes, pointe shoes and dancewear to discover your dance wardrobe must-haves.