It’s not a stretch to say that stretching can benefit the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching can:
- Improve your performance in physical activities.
- Reduce your risk of injuries.
- Help enable a full range of motion for your joints.
- Allow your muscles to work more effectively.
A study published in April 2018 even found that regular stretching can enhance the muscle function of elderly people who have limited mobility.
Today, the realm of stretching is being, well, stretched. More and more people are taking advantage of a growing movement known as assisted stretching. Assisted stretch has been added to the menu of services at the Massage Envy chain, and boutique fitness studios that specialize in assisted stretch are popping up around the country.
“Assisted stretching has been used for years by pro athletes; however, consumers are just now starting to see the benefits of it,” says Kevin Ramsey, the lead stretch therapist at Massage Envy.
Massage Envy’s Streto Method of assisted stretching relies on 10 stretching sequences to improve flexibility, boost mobility and enhance everyday performance. The method was developed by a chiropractor, massage therapist and ergonomist.
“Whether you are an athlete looking to improve your performance or simply want to do something that will keep your body agile and healthy, assisted stretch can provide immense benefits,” Ramsey says.
Young and old alike can reap those benefits.
“Changing lifestyles mean people are less flexible than they once were,” Ramsey says. “Sitting at a desk, driving for long periods of time and using cellphones all negatively impact flexibility, lead to body aches and pains, and can make it harder for active people to achieve their peak performance. Assisted stretch is one easy way to help counter these negative effects while improving overall wellness.”
Brad Walker, director of education at StretchLab, an assisted-stretching franchise based in Irvine, California, says a stretching session typically last 30 to 60 minutes. A properly educated professional, such as a doctor, physical therapist, massage therapist or athletic trainer, should lead somebody through a session, experts say.
Walker notes that assisted stretching should not replace physical therapy.
“If a person is injured, we encourage them to heal properly, with physical therapy if necessary, and then come back to us so we can help them prevent further injury,” he says.
While assisted stretching can be valuable for an array of people, there are some folks who should avoid it. This includes anyone with a history of moderate to severe curvature of the spine, or anyone who’s undergone spinal surgery that involved fusing bones or placing hardware (such as screws), according to Dr. Dianah Lake, an emergency room physician who’s a fitness and wellness expert.
Health and fitness David Brett says “hypermobile” people also shouldn’t engage in assisted stretching, as they’re far more flexible than average people are and could suffer injuries during deep, assisted stretches.
But for those who are able to do assisted stretching, they can enjoy stretching angles that are different from the ones they’re able to perform on their own, Brett says. Furthermore, assisted stretching can be safer than typical self-stretching, particularly if someone isn’t well-versed in stretching techniques, he says.
In short, Massage Envy’s Ramsey says assisted stretching can do wonders for your flexibility and mobility.
Benefits of better flexibility include:
- Less muscle stress during workouts and daily activities.
- Increased range of motion, leading to better joint lubrication.
- Improved muscular balance, helping you feel taller and stand straighter.
As for mobility, here are three of the pluses:
- Improved muscle coordination.
- Prevention of age-induced physical limitations.
- Better activation and engagement of the muscles.
“Whether you’re a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, improved flexibility and mobility can help strength, speed, power, agility and endurance so you can do more of what you love,” Ramsey says.