We all know that active people, who regularly engage in some form of physical activity live longer and it’s the key reason we, as a nation, constantly discuss the topic. However, there is a key factor that many of these studies ignore, that is actually one of the greatest determinants of living longer.
There are endless studies that range from preaching the best forms of physical activity for lengthening life expectancy, to discussing the optimum age-dependent energy expenditure levels for maintaining a healthy body. But the key factor ignored in many of these studies is stretching.
Let’s start by considering what the ultimate goal is, and for most of you who are reading this post, the goal will be to live a long and happy life.
So how does stretching contribute to this? Now, while the majority of these studies on improving life expectancy through training, revolve around understanding the optimum way to maintain a healthy body. The core to this, however, is stretching, and I’m going to tell you why.
Stretching Reduces Injury Risk
The first key point to consider is that stretching significantly reduces the risk of injury, particularly when stretching occurs after a light warm up, before more intense training. Stretching reduces the risk of injury by preparing the muscles for activity, improving their flexibility and reducing their tendency to tear or cramp.
However, stretching routines should occur when muscles are pliable, usually after a light warm up, and should start with dynamic stretches (active movement-based stretches). The key to stretching the muscles is to push the boundaries of each muscle in controlled conditions, allowing you to stretch it to maximum capacity without injury, hence completely preparing the muscle for more intense physical exertion.
Stretching Maintains Healthy Joints
This factor enables both short and long term commitment to physical activity and hence directly contributes to lengthening life expectancy. Furthermore, unhealthy joints can be sore when partaking in physical exercise. This short-term factor is a clear indicator of the importance of stretching for improving life expectancy, by enabling ongoing involvement in physical activity.
In the long run, maintaining healthy joints puts less strain on the attached muscles, tendons and ligaments, which results in reduced risk of muscle injury, but also enables improved performance, hence allowing an individual to work at optimum levels to a greater extent and therefore improves the results of the physical exertion. Being able to perform at optimum levels is a key factor to lengthening your life expectancy through training.
Stretching Improves Posture
Finally, it is important to consider an individual’s posture. Strong evidence suggests that stretching improves posture and therefore reduces strain on joints and muscles. One of the most common causes of soreness that occurs as individuals get older is the result of poor posture. If poor posture is the cause and stretching eradicates this, surely this is direct evidence supporting the value that stretching adds to prolonging your life expectancy? I’ll let you judge.
So, if all of these are the result of stretching, overall an individual who actively engages in stretching exercises on a regular basis is more likely to be able to perform at optimum levels on a continuous basis. Hence, it is evident that this, in conjunction with optimum training, will create a holistic training program that focuses on performance at a maintainable rate, hence making you more likely to live longer.