Why does stretching feel so good?
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
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.
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.