IMPROVING PERFORMANCE. Perhaps the most attractive benefit of stretching is improved physical performance. The more flexible a joint, the greater the ability to move through a wider range of motion and thus function more efficiently. Recent research at the Human Performance laboratory at the Boise State University showed that 20 min of stretching, 3 times a week, can increase your range of motion by 30%.
PREVENTING INJURY. Exercise physiologists generally agree that greater flexibility, and hence greater range of motion, makes people less likely to injure themselves. The majority of traumatic muscular injuries occur when an athlete pushes a joint beyond its normal range of motion. The nerves that drive working muscles and give them their memory are surrounded by a sheath of muscle. If the sheath surrounding the nerve is elongated through stretches, the memory of the muscles is adapted to correspond with this greater range of motion, so when you push your joints beyond their normal range of motion, your muscles are able to react effectively, reducing the likelihood of injury.
IMPROVING COORDINATION. Greater flexibility increases neuromuscular coordination. It has been shown that the speed of nerve impulses is enhanced by stretching. The central nervous system becomes more sensitive to the physical demands placed on it, so opposing muscle groups work in a more coordinated way.
PROMOTING JOINT ELASTICITY. There is a greater circulation to the joints. Stretching increases the temperature of the tissue, which in turn increases the blood nutrients supplied to the joint structure. This process promotes greater elasticity in the surrounding tissue.