When was the last time you stretched? I don’t mean that 3 second arm extension that accompanies a good yawn – I’m talking about a good 15-20 minute session dedicated solely to elongating those limbs until you felt loose and limber. If you can’t remember, it is time to change your ways. Stretching is simple, yet so necessary for your overall health.

There is more than enough research about the benefits of stretching before and after your workouts. Stretching before a workout will wake up your body and minimize injury, and stretching after will help your muscles build and repair. However, stretching provides many other health benefits as well.

Here are five reasons to stretch it out, with or without a workout:

1. Increase flexibility

The more your muscles can lengthen, the more flexible you will be. A lack of flexibility can cause your movements to be less fluid, which makes you more prone to strains and injuries. Stretching will increase your flexibility and minimize these risks.

2. Improve balance & coordination

Do you have two left feet? Increased flexibility comes hand in hand with improved balance and coordination. This means fewer stumbles and falls, and fewer careless injuries!

3. Improve circulation

Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, which brings them nourishment and removes waste. This will help speed up your recovery from muscle and joint injuries – stretch, and let the blood flow!

4. Reduce lower back pain

A common cause of an aching lower back is stiff muscles in your lower back, hips, hamstrings, and booty. Stretch out these muscles and lessen the pain!

5. Improve cardiovascular health

Your heart needs more than just cardio – stretching provides benefits for your heart as well! It will improve artery function and lower your blood pressure.

-Shalyn Tharayil

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