Stretching is the perfect way to get a great body.

We all know the feeling. The alarm goes off on another early morning and you have to drag yourself out of sleep. Your arms go above your head, your toes reach down towards the end of the bed while your legs elongate in a bid to wake your body up and shake off sleep.

Stretching is a natural thing that we all do subconsciously, whether it’s first thing in the morning, at your desk at work, or more consciously before and after a workout.

It’s our bodies’ way of waking up, correcting its position and keeping us ready for whatever the day throws at us. For fitness fanatics, it should be an integral part of a workout routine but we’d be lying if we said we never neglected this part of our fitness regime. We all know stretching is important to protect our body from injury and help it recover, but how does this work exactly? And what other benefits do we miss out on if we forget to stretch it out?

Here’s a list of 11 awesome benefits we receive from stretching that can help to answer your questions.

1. Stretching Primes Your Muscles for Exercise

If the first mile of every run feels like straight-up torture, you need to start warming up with dynamic stretches like leg swings, high knees, and bodyweight squats and lunges. “A dynamic warm-up increases blood flow, moves the joint fluidly, and mimics the movements that will be completed during the workout,” says Jacquelyn Brennan, CSCS, a personal trainer and co-founder of Mindfuel Wellness, a Chicago-based company that teaches on-site fitness classes and wellness workshops to boost employee health.

2. Get the Blood Going

Another reason we often find ourselves stretching after long periods of inactivity is a bid to improve circulation. Stretching is a great way to get your blood pumping properly which in turn improves muscle effectiveness, reduces post workout soreness and will also lower your overall heart rate, as your heart won’t have to work as hard to supply your muscles with the oxygen they need.

3. Better Body Posture

You can improve your body posture by stretching everyday. Body posture is very important when it comes to the kind of strain your muscles experience. It determines where you develop aches and pains.

4. Stretching Improves Your Exercise Form

Tight muscles don’t do anything good for your exercise form. After all, when your muscles start compensating for each other, proper biomechanics go out the window, Brennan says. By correcting muscular imbalances, static stretching helps you perform any exercise with better form, both improving your performance and preventing injury (more on that next).

5. Stretching Prevents Injury

Performing dynamic stretching prior to exercise is important for preventing any of those “something snapped!” injuries that can occur when you work out with cold, tight muscles.

6. Stamina

Another nifty benefit we gain from making sure our muscles are stretched and the blood is flowing is a stronger stamina. By making sure our muscles are ready for exercise and fully stocked up on oxygen before we pound the pavements, we will help to stave off fatigue for longer and in turn, increase our stamina.

7. Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed

6-outdoor-jogging-and-workout-hazardsIf you’re feeling lethargic or just down right sleepy, skip the double shot of espresso and get moving. Spending a few minute at your desk stretching your body can refocus your mind and reinvigorate your body, keeping you going through the rest of your day.

8. Stretching Helps You Sleep Better

“Whether you sleep for five hours or eight hours, staying in one position for a length of time may cause you to feel stiff,” Romero says. “Static stretching before going to bed will help relieve some tightness or cramping you may feel during the night.” Bonus: By reducing stress, you’ll have a better chance of actually falling asleep in the first place.

9. Getting Jiggy

Perhaps a slightly unexpected, but definitely motivating, reason to stretch out is the chance to improve your sex life. Stretching out your muscles post-workout or attending a few yoga sessions will increase flexibility and range of motion, making it all the more easier for you to get adventurous.

10. A Bag of Nerves

A strong argument for why stretching can improve flexibility is that it actually helps our nervous systems to build a tolerance to a certain range of motion until we don’t feel pain or resistance while performing that motion. There is also some evidence to suggest that stretching in the right way can relieve nerve pain such as sciatica.

11. A Better Outlook

It’s no surprise that yogis seem go through life with a balanced, happy perspective. Stretching your body stretches your mind and performing stretching poses can act as a form of self-awareness and meditation that can increase your feelings of contentment and balance in life.