I am often asked about stretching. How important is it to stretch? How long do I need to stretch? Do I need to stretch before or after exercise? These are all valid questions, and I’m sure everyone has heard several different answers from numerous media sources over the years. I have also noticed that stretching is an often overlooked aspect in an exercise program. However, I feel we need to identify and determine what we’re trying to accomplish with a stretching regimen.
When we stretch, the objective is to gain or maintain flexibility. Flexibility simply refers to the range of motion in our joints, and the length of the muscles that cross the joints. Improvement in posture, reduced risk of injury, less muscle tension and decreased soreness are a few of the benefits of being flexible. Also, an individual needs to be flexible to perform daily activities easily and effectively. As we age, flexibility tends to deteriorate more, and it is usually due to a sedentary lifestyle.
It is vital to warm-up with movement before exercising; this concept is called a dynamic warm-up. Dynamic warm-ups allow the body to gradually increase blood flow to the muscles that are going to be worked, and it excites the central nervous system for the workout. It will increase performance and reduce the risk of injury.
The most opportune time to stretch is immediately after you are finished exercising. This works well due to the fact that our muscles are already warm from exercising, and a warm muscle is a perfect candidate to be stretched. This is a deliberate act to increase our range of motion and it should not be rushed. It is also extremely important to remember to breathe and to not force the stretch.
Over the next few weeks, I will feature some excellent stretches that you may find beneficial – stay tuned!!