So, what happens when you stretch?
Here is the technical answer, according to MIT, read more about it here: http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_2.html
"The stretching of a muscle fiber begins with the sarcomere (see section Muscle Composition), the basic unit of contraction in the muscle fiber. As the sarcomere contracts, the area of overlap between the thick and thin myofilaments increases. As it stretches, this area of overlap decreases, allowing the muscle fiber to elongate. Once the muscle fiber is at its maximum resting length (all the sarcomeres are fully stretched), additional stretching places force on the surrounding connective tissue (see section Connective Tissue). As the tension increases, the collagen fibers in the connective tissue align themselves along the same line of force as the tension. Hence when you stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length sarcomere by sarcomere, and then the connective tissue takes up the remaining slack. When this occurs, it helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.
When a muscle is stretched, some of its fibers lengthen, but other fibers may remain at rest. The current length of the entire muscle depends upon the number of stretched fibers (similar to the way that the total strength of a contracting muscle depends on the number of recruited fibers contracting). According to SynerStretch you should think of "little pockets of fibers distributed throughout the muscle body stretching, and other fibers simply going along for the ride". The more fibers that are stretched, the greater the length developed by the stretched muscle."
If you just said "OK great, now in English please" don't worry. Lets break it down.
Muscles are made of multiple layers of tissues and fibers. As you stretch, those fibers lengthen so does the length of the muscle while being stretched. Which of course means that we become more flexible.
So, what happens when our muscles become more flexible? More importantly, you're probably asking "what benefit does flexibility give me?"
The Benefits of Flexibility
1) Stretching helps lower blood sugar levels
This is great because a high blood sugar level is very bad for you overall health. According to: https://www.naturallivingideas.com/9-things-that-happen-to-you-when-you-stretch-everyday/
"Elevated sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves and adversely affect almost all other organ systems of the body, severely damaging kidneys, liver, heart, and the nervous system. Diabetes is rated as the no. 7 killer, but it is an underlying cause of many other potentially fatal diseases, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke. "
By stretching your body, you actually increase flexibility not only in your muscles but the flexibility of your blood vessels as well. This allows more blood flow to the muscle tissue where the glucose in your bloodstream gets transferred to be utilized by your body.
2) Stretching helps reduce high blood pressure.
According to: The Chicago Tribune
"researchers found that those who could not reach to or beyond their toes in the sit-and-stretch test were more likely than their flexible peers to have higher systolic blood pressure -- the peak pressure reading taken as the heart contracts. "
The reason for this is that trunk flexibility is a good indication of arterial flexibility, and that arterial flexibility helps moderate blood pressure. Therefore the more you stretch, the more suited your body becomes to moderating your blood pressure.
3) Stretching reduces stress
This one is extremely important. We feel the effects of stress every single day, but what do you do to relieve yourself from that stress?
If your answer is have a beer, and watch Netflix, you might be doing yourself more harm than good. Yes, there is an initial feeling of relaxation but more likely than not, you've been sitting down all day which carries its own set of negative side effects. Therefore sitting down more will not help your body recover.
Getting up and doing something physical distracts your mind from what is causing it to be stressed. When we stretch, we tend to regulate our breathing more and our attention is turned to the physical feeling of the stretch. Since our senses are terrible at multi tasking, this feeling tends to relieve us of the mental tension we might be feeling.
Now quit reading this article and get up and stretch it out! There are too many benefits not to take advantage of a free activity you can do just about anywhere!