Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific skeletal muscle (or muscle group) is deliberately elongated to its fullest length (often by abduction from the torso) in order to improve the muscle’s felt elasticity and reaffirm comfortable muscle tone.
The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. Stretching is also used therapeutically to to alleviate cramps. Stretching, in its most basic form, is a natural and instinctive activity.
Exercise increases the amount of flexibility in a joint, while decreasing the amount of resistance. Different sports have different flexibility requirements, which can be increased further through training and practice of the sport. A person training for gymnastics would develop more flexibility than a shot put thrower.
Those who practice gymnastics, dance, figure skating, martial arts, body toning, yoga, cheer-leading and contortion rely on functional flexibility (increased range of motion with strength and control) to perform their actions.