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Why does stretching feel so good? © Getty Images

Why does stretching feel so good?

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After a night’s sleep or an afternoon spent staring at a computer, there’s little better than a good stretch to release tight muscles.

Asked by: Peter Turner, via email

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Not only does stretching clear your mind by allowing you to focus on your body, it also releases endorphins.

Blood flow to the muscles increases after a long stretch. Muscles are controlled by the nervous system, which has two main components: ‘sympathetic’ (fight or flight) and ‘parasympathetic’ (rest and digest).

Static stretching increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation. Although the heart rate may rise during a stretch, it tends to decrease after.

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Authors

Dr Emma Davies is a science writer and editor with a PhD in food chemistry from the University of Leeds. She writes about all aspects of chemistry, from food and the environment to toxicology and regulatory science.

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