Importance of stretching for physical and mental health

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As Pilates based exercise lovers, we love a good stretch. Not just for the feeling of happy, healthy muscles. But because of the surprising amount of health and stress reduction benefits proper regular stretching can have on your body and mind.

Stretching is an underrated part of exercise. And it’s an often overlooked area of women’s health.

That’s why we’re examining the benefits of stretching in and outside of Pilates based exercise in this blog! 

Why stretching is good for you physically

pilates based exercise stretching
Photo by Matthew Henry

Our bodies are a series of muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints all working together to ensure movement. Muscles power our ability to move and to maintain strength. However, muscles and other parts of our body don’t stay fit without movement, proper nutrition and stretching.

As Becky is fond of saying, you’ve got to use it or you’ll lose it. Nowhere is this truer than your muscles.

As women, we need to focus on key areas to help maintain our fitness. These include:

  • The hips and pelvis- especially if we’ve had kids and/or lengthy pregnancy impacts
  • Hamstrings and calves
  • The neck, shoulders and lower back- this is especially true of office workers and those of us who spend a lot of time in front of the computer (which is just about everyone!)

The aim with all stretching is to maintain and improve flexibility while giving your muscles, joints and body a gentle workout. This is why Pilates based exercise is great. Pilates is built to help use the body’s natural resistance and movement to help expand and maximise stretching potential. Coupled with Yoga and incidental exercise through the Body Beyond Birth program, our Pilates based exercises help you build up strength while minimising injury.

Stretching helps maintain a healthy relationship between you and your body so that when you move, you are moving together rather than opening yourself up for any problems. Think about the flexibility required to be a mother.

At any given time, you’re picking toys and other bits and bobs off the floor. Your kids are asking to be carried and were carried during pregnancy and the early stages of their life. You spend a lot of time pushing strollers, carrying baby carriers and carrying sleepy kids to the bedroom. Life with a child also means carrying everything from nappies, clothes and food through to colouring equipment, toys and school bags on a regular basis.

Even without looking at playing with your children and keeping up with their boundless energy for running, exploring and getting into mischief, your body has a huge workload. Bending down, picking up, carrying loads, running after kids and all the rest is so much easier when your body is flexible and able to stretch.

Why stretching is good for you emotionally

One of the side effects that a lot of women’s exercise programs gloss over is the emotional impact of an unfit body. It might seem like a tough subject to tackle, but it’s very important to realise that Pilates based exercise programs and any form of movement are going to have emotional benefits as well.

Some of the emotional benefits of exercise include:

  • Maintaining a sense of autonomy. If you feel fit and healthy, you feel more capable of doing what you need to do
  • Allowing you to enjoy the kids. Being able to play, run, wrestle and do things such as ride bicycles and go swimming with our children is a source of joy and fun
  • It lowers stress levels. Let’s not pussy foot around here- raising children is tough. We’re often sleep deprived and in demand. So we need all the practical stress reduction we can get!
  • It can help you recover from pregnancy related injury. Abdominal separations, light bladder leakage, pelvis pain and issues with the pelvic floor, sore breasts and more can not only physically drain us but emotionally drain us as well. Dealing with continued pain can cause stress levels to increase and not having a respite from a painful body can tax even the most emotionally fit person. So using Pilates based exercise with the added benefit of physiotherapy can help you start to see changes in body and mood quicker
  • It relieves PMS and other hormonal impacts. A body that is warmed up, flexible and has the right amount of blood flow occurring is less likely to receive cramps and other issues. Hormone levels also respond well to gentle exercise. The headaches associated with periods and PMS can be reduced by stretching found within Pilates based exercise. And there is a natural anti-depressant released during stretching based exercise called allopregnanolone that can help with general mood

Beyond the general mood boosting properties of exercise, Pilates based exercise coupled with the right nutrition and a supportive community of women found within Body Beyond Birth can help relieve distress and manage stress better.

If you are finding the emotional side of motherhood challenging, make sure you reach for assistance. Being a mama is a tough gig and there is no need for you to go it alone. If you need help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Even if you are not in crisis, they can help find resources and supports in your local area.

The specific benefits of Pilates based exercise

It’s no accident that Becky and Jackie love Pilates based exercise. It’s because it suits so many people and provides benefit straight off the bat, regardless of your sporting experience and fitness level.

Here are some of the amazing properties that Body Beyond Birth can offer you:

  • Boosting your immunity. Your body responds well to exercise and movement and this in turn helps boost your immunity. That extra hit to immunity means being able to overcome the germs brought home from daycare and school quicker or even entirely
  • You’ll sleep better. Show me a mama that doesn’t need any more sleep and I’ll show you a very lucky woman indeed! Being able to recoup energy through a deeper, longer sleep can make all the difference during the hectic parenting days.
  • You reduce your chance of injury. Athletes warm up by stretching their muscles and making sure their muscles are stretched. That’s why runners stretch before the big race or swimmers are seen rotating their shoulders before diving off the blocks. Mamas don’t often get that chance to stretch or rotate before the big race. If your child runs off or if they fall into water, you need to respond within seconds. We’ve all experienced the heart in mouth moment where a curious child has decided to take a mad dash. Being able to match the speed, grab the child and remove them from land or based water efficiently is a part of being a parent. The last thing you need is a busted hamstring or pulled muscle as a result- or worse still, happening during that moment of need!
  • It improves your posture- stretching is a huge part of posture. Pilates based exercise has a huge focus on ensuring you are standing and sitting properly. From activating your core through to becoming aware of the position of your shoulders and arms, the foundations of Pilates are designed to get you standing tall in both body and mind!
  • It counters the muscle switch off associated with desk jobs. Your glutes and your abdominal muscles switch off when you sit too much. Sitting is a big part of any office jobs and if you run your own small business. Pilates based exercise gives you a reprieve from this sort of switch off because it’s designed to wake these areas of the body and keep them nimble, alive and functioning

Stretching helps you to stay fit and well

There you have it- the benefits of a decent stretch. Want to experience the amazing benefits for yourself?

Check out our trial of Pilates based exercise program, Body Beyond Birth, and enjoy the difference in 7 days!