Why Does Stretching Feel So Good? 3 Solid Reasons

Picture this: it’s morning and you raise your arms up and yawn. Ahhhh. But why does stretching feel so good? 

This post will get into the reasons behind this phenomenon. It is science based and there’s physiology to prove it. 

But there is a deeper mind-muscle connection to stretching you’ll discover. 

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or simply curious, as a certified personal trainer I’ll help provide valuable insights on why stretching feels so good. 

Here’s what’s coming up.

Why Does Stretching Feel So Good?

The short answer is that there are 3 body wide responses that feel so good. These three responses combine to create a feeling of relaxation and euphoria. 

A Neurological Response:
Releasing Endorphins   

The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. It’s a part of your wellbeing, as it controls your thinking, feeling, and doing. 

Stretching activates receptors in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These receptors release chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. 

  • There are special neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins are released during weight lifting, running, stretching, and more.
  • Releasing endorphins is your body’s way of dealing with pain. Endorphins also reduce stress and improve your body’s overall sense of well-being.
  • Moderate to intense exercise does put physical stress on the body. But as you’re finding out, this is a good thing! 

There’s also a second neurological response: the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This system is known as your “rest and digest” system. 

When coupled with endorphin release, these neurological responses give you a sense of euphoria when stretching. 

A Muscular Response: Reducing Tension    

The musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It helps to support the body and makes it move. 

Stretching muscles activates the muscle spindles, which are stretch detectors. These can sense when a muscle is being elongated or contracted. 

  • It’s common for our neck, back, and leg muscles to get tight from sitting, bad posture, or a long day at work.
  • Stretching will activate the muscle spindle and cause the nervous system to send a signal to the muscle to relax. 
  • Tight muscles need to be elongated to promote muscle spindle activation. Not only that, but you can feel the tension release as you breathe and stretch. 

As you stretch the muscle fiber, it begins to affect the blood vessels as well. This combines with the next system to answer the question, why does stretching feel so good? 

A Cardiovascular Response:
Improving Blood Flow    

The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, blood, and blood vessels. It circulates oxygen rich blood throughout the body and removes carbon dioxide. 

Another important aspect is that it provides nutrients to all your organs and cells. Stretching stimulates greater blood flow to the muscles being stretched. 

Greater blood flow has multiple benefits to the area. 

  • The muscles elongate and relax. Blood vessels in and around the muscle become larger and more blood passes through. More blood means more vital nutrients are available to the muscle. 
  • If the muscles are full of tension this is a huge relief because they’ll begin to warm up and become softer. Relaxation and recovery occur as a result. 
  • More blood flow means that waste products like lactic acid are removed from the sore and tight muscles. Oxygen-rich blood is delivered to the area and you get a sense of relief. 

That’s why light cardio on rest days is a beneficial practice because it helps aid in muscle recovery due to increased blood flow to the muscles.

Understanding Stretching 

why does stretching feel so good

Stretching is the lengthening of muscles, tendons, and other tissues in our body. 

It plays a major role in flexibility and muscular performance. A body that is nice and limber also prevents injuries. 

There are 5 common forms of stretching. 

Static Stretching

This is probably what comes to mind when you think of stretching. 

With static stretching you hold a fixed position for a certain time and target a specific muscle group. The muscle elongates and a gentle tension is felt. 

The position is held without jerking or bouncing. Static stretching is best done as a cool down while the muscles are warm and loose. 

The end goal is to increase muscle flexibility and range of motion over time. 

Dynamic Stretching

Think of dynamic stretching as the opposite of static stretching. Dynamic stretching does not hold a fixed position for an extended time.  

Instead, dynamic stretching involves continuous motion that increases blood flow. That’s why it’s perfect to use dynamic stretches as part of a warm up routine. 

Passive Stretching

It is called passive stretching because it involves an external source like a device or a partner. 

The person who is being stretched relaxes the muscle being stretched by the partner. That’s why this stretching is commonly used in physical and massage therapy. 

Active Stretching

Active stretching is unique in that it involves opposing muscle groups to create tension. 

The person being stretched contracts the muscle opposite to the one being stretched. This stretching is commonly used in rehabilitation and sports training programs. 

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)

PNF is a combination of passive stretching and isometric contractions. Both are used in conjunction and are highly effective for flexibility and range of motion. 

For more detailed info, check out this study.

Stretching and the Mind-Body Connection 

Stretching does impact the body, but also establishes a deep connection between the body and mind. 

This connection comes as a result of thoughts and emotions linking with physical movements. 

So why does stretching feel so good? Because it can help to incorporate mindfulness, focus, and body awareness into your routine. 

Mindfulness means that you are fully present in the moment. 

As you stretch, try to forget about everything else and direct your attention to the movements. Focus on breathing with each stretch and picture each muscle relaxing in your mind. 

Mindfulness and focus will bring a sense of purposeful intention to each stretch. Not only that, but it can help promote a deeper sense of relaxation and self-gratitude.

Stretching gives the opportunity to develop a better sense of body awareness. This act of heightened awareness enhances the physical aspect of stretching.

  • As you engage in different stretches, you can become more in tune with areas of tightness and tension.
  • By paying attention to physical sensations and movements, you become present in the here and now. This can foster a sense of balance and being centered. 

Incorporating Stretching Into Your Routine 

Including stretching into your routine can positively impact your well-being, physical performance, and even prevent injury. 

Here’s 3 tips to consider helping you include stretching into your routine. 

Define Your Goals

Establish clear SMART goals that will help you get started. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time sensitive. 

Having these types of goals will help set a clear focus on why you are starting a stretching routine. 

Ask For Professional
Help As Needed 

If you’re new to stretching, consider getting help from a fitness expert or physical therapist. 

They can give you personalized plans or advice and create a stretching routine perfect for you. A routine tailored to your body needs will help to address the right areas. 

Listen to Your Body 

Stretching can feel a little uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. Listen to your body and stretch only as much as you can. 

Stretch to the point of feeling tension, and then releasing it, and not pain to the point of injury. Avoid any body positions where you can tweak anything. Over time your body will gradually become more flexible. 

Bottom Line 

So why does stretching feel so good? Because It releases endorphins, relaxes muscles, and improves blood flow.

This in turn leaves you feeling stress free and in a state of tranquility.  

By incorporating stretching into your daily routine, you can optimize your flexibility, muscular performance, prevent injury, and expense mind-body connection. 

So, embrace the great feeling of stretching and enjoy the benefits it holds for your physical and mental health.

Need more exercises? Check out 15 Exercises You Need Daily for Wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does stretching burn calories?

Stretching does burn calories. But not as much compared to cardiovascular exercises like running or swimming. According to Health Line, stretching burns about 27 calories per 10 minutes of activity. 

Why does stretching feel euphoric?

Stretching feels euphoric because of your body’s neurological response. Your nerves release “feel good” chemical substances called endorphins. 

Stretching also activates your “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system. Both of these combined create a sense of overall relaxation and tranquility. 

Why does stretching feel so good when sore?

Stretching feels so good when sore because it increases blood flow to the muscles. Muscles can feel tight after a long day. 

Stretching muscles opens up the blood vessels in the area you want to target. This creates more blood flow to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the sore muscle. 

Why does it feel so good to stretch in the morning?

It feels so good to stretch in the morning because the tense muscles from lying down all night get elongated and activate muscle spindles. 

Muscle spindles have receptors that activate your nervous system. These have a body wide effect of relaxation and reduction of stress. 

Why do I feel stronger after stretching?

You feel stronger after stretching because a flexible muscle has a greater range of moment and is more loose to perform better. 

Stretching creates microscopic tears in the muscle that are repaired by proteins in the recovery process. This leads to denser, stronger muscles. 

What hormone is released when stretching?

The hormone that is released when stretching is called an endorphin. Endorphins are released under moments of physical stress or pain. 

Endorphins are a part of your body’s natural reward system and as such make you feel really good. That’s part of the benefits of stretching or exercise in general. 

Why do I feel weird after stretching?

If you are feeling weird after stretching, it could be tight muscles around your nerves. This can cause a tingling feeling. 

You should only stretch to the point of slight discomfort and not to the point of pain. Listen to your body as you stretch and only go as much as you can. 

AUTHOR

Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!