Why do we Stretch?

Before we get to why we stretch do you know who invented stretching?

Digital illustration of a group of neandertals hunting a bison
A group of neandertals hunting a bison

Apparently nobody does!

Stretching before and after sports and activities dates back over 10,000 years to yoga transcripts. Even the Ancient Greeks and Romans incorporated stretching routines in order to keep their respective armies in tip top shape. Since then yoga, different clinical settings, Pilates and sports medicine all draw on some sort of variation of “stretching” for top performance and/or treatment. Yoga has been around since 2000 B.C. (http://www.sdri.net/2013/12/history-and-origins-of-stretching/).

I think we can we assume that our caveman ancestors did not stretch. Can you imagine a caveman about to take off and sprint, stopping for 20 to 30 seconds to do a hamstring stretch? Sounds ridiculous right? It is!

Then why do we stretch if they didn’t?

Man and woman doing stretching exercises at summer park. Young couple exercising and stretching muscles before sport activity - outdoor in nature

Cavemen/Palaeolithic/Hunter Gatherers all had one major thing in common, they were constantly ‘active’. There was no such thing as ‘exercise’. It was just living. They were turning, jumping, walking, sprinting, swimming and climbing as part of everyday life. It was a necessity!

Stress frustrated panic news email reading from laptop computer woman depressed

Today’s people sit for most of their day. This has devastating effects on your back and your general ability to move well.

Our ancestors moved all the time. In all sorts of ways. Your brain is stimulated by movement and can actually develop more neural pathways the more you move. This is important as it helps cognitive ability. But most of all it helps with greater movement for everyday life while reducing the risk of injury.

All stretching is doing is telling your brain and muscles that it is safe to move in certain ways. We do this before and after exercise today, when in fact; we should be moving all day.

The more your brain ‘understands’ it can move, the more your body will allow it to! For example, if you spend everyday walking only but one day decide to go running, your body will not ‘feel safe’ and report ‘danger’. This is a major reason people tear muscles and injury themselves.

Think about what movements you do from day to day.

Are you active?

Do you play sports?

 

Whatever you do, move more.

 

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