Stretching prevents injury and soreness, improves range of motion and circulation, and gives you time to cool down from your workout. Any one, of any age, can see big benefits from adding a stretching routine to their workouts.
One of the biggest benefits of regular stretching is an increase in flexibility, and without good flexibility, movements can be slowed and less fluid. Improved range of motion makes everything from tying shoes to lifting groceries easier, and also helps prevent muscle strains or tears, damage to ligaments and other soft issue injuries. The bigger ranges of motion that result from increased flexibility around joints will also improve coordination and balance, which is incredibly important when trying to prevent falls, especially in older populations. Stretching also improves circulation by increasing blood flow to the working muscle, helping them receive needed nutrients and remove waste, like lactic acid. Better posture and stress relief are more of the wonderful benefits you can get from regular stretching. Tight muscles are the enemy of good posture, so stretching out can help you sit up straight and limit aches and pains. When you’re feeling stressed, a few minutes of stretching will help tense muscles relax.
You can stretch a little bit before you workout as part of a solid warm-up and after your session as a cool down. When you stretch for a warm-up, make sure you’ve done something to get your blood flowing already, such as five minutes on an elliptical. Stretching cold muscles makes them prone to pulling or straining, which is exactly what you’re trying to prevent! After you’ve loosened and warmed your muscles, you can give them a nice stretch before you hit the hard stuff, then you can be sure those working muscles are getting enough oxygen. A light stretch before the tough stuff will also raise your heart rate slowly and safely. Be careful not to stretch too much prior to your workout, as there is evidence suggesting that long, static stretching before a workout can lower strength gains by straining, and therefore weakening the muscle before you train.
Stretching properly is the key to seeing benefits, so here are some tips on how to do it the right way. Take deep breaths and hold each stretch three times for 30 seconds, making sure to stretch both sides evenly. Long, steady stretches are the way to, with no tugging or bouncing. You should feel a stretch, not a pain or pull, if you do, stop immediately. Make sure to stretch all over! Quadriceps, hamstrings, groin, calves and lower back are some of the most important areas, especially when you’ve put your legs through the grinder with some hard cardio or a long run. Lower back pain is often caused by tightness in hamstrings, lower back and hips, so stretching these areas can be a huge help.
For questions about, or help developing, a stretching program, send us an email!