What Can Stretching Do For You?

Do you fit in a workout whenever you can but seldom find the time to stretch? It’s tempting to try to cut corners when you’re busy. Sooner or later this could become a problem. Muscles which are not stretched shorten and tighten up. At some point, they no longer extend all the way. This can make movements difficult and can lead to injury.

But stretching is not just for athletes.  If you spend a lot of your day sitting, your hamstrings are probably tight. This makes it harder to straighten your knees which affects your posture as well as your ability to walk. If your tight muscles are suddenly required to extend, you are more likely to get hurt.

No matter who you are, you need full range of motion in your joints for optimal performance. Lack of flexibility can cause poor posture and dysfunctional movement.  A tight or shortened muscle is weakened. The muscle isn’t able to perform at full capacity. This causes the opposing muscles to have to work harder.

You can tackle these issues with a proper stretching routine.  Improving the pliability of your muscles and tendons will help prevent strains.  Stretching develops long lean muscles. It makes them flexible enough to do what you need them to do without pain on a daily basis.

 

Which muscles should I stretch?

Only the ones you want to operate optimally when you need them to!

The most critical stretches for mobility are: your hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and calves.

Stretching your shoulders, lower back and neck is a great way to release tension.

Stretch the muscles you exercise after each session. The more muscles you stretch the better you will feel.

 

How long should I hold each stretch?

Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds if possible. That being said, 15 seconds is better than not stretching at all.

 

How often should I stretch and for how long?

Five to ten minutes or more, three to four times per week is a great place to start.  You can gradually lengthen your sessions over time.

Stretching at the end of each workout, and after busy stressful work days, is ideal.

 

Stretching Do’s

Perform at least five to ten minutes of light to moderate activity (walk, weights or cardio) before stretching.

Ease into your stretches.

Relax and breathe during your stretches.

 

Stretching Don’ts

Don’t stretch before warming up your muscles. This can lead to injury!

Don’t bounce.

Don’t tolerate pain. You should feel some tension but never pain.

 

Top Ten Benefits of Stretching

1. Improves flexibility

2. Makes daily activities easier

3. Improves athletic performance

4. Enhances blood flow

5. Maintains joint range of motion

6. Improves your posture

7. Helps to prevent injury and lower back pain

8. Reduces stress and muscle soreness

9. Boosts your mood

10. Improves your balance

 

The Takeaway

Stretching improves your athleticism, mobility, mood and wellness.  This simple relaxing habit is a great way to increase your flexibility and range of motion.  If you stretch regularly you will be able to move freely without pain.  So to feel better and stay injury-free, don’t forget to stretch!

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Health.harvard.edu; mayoclinic.org; prevention.com; healthline.com; verywellfit.com; centerfoundation.org

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