Stretching for the Health of It
Written by Cindy Kugler, MS Bryan LifePointe exercise specialist
Why should you stretch?
Stretching is essential for maintaining full range of motion in one’s joints. Stretching will enable you to become more flexible, decrease the risk for injury and allow for freedom and enjoyment of movement. Stretching also delays the onset of muscular fatigue, helps prevent or alleviate muscle soreness and helps promote mental relaxation.
When should you stretch?
Stretching can be done at any time. Ideally, however, muscles should be warmed up before stretching to increase flexibility and decrease risk of injury. Current research indicates that a gradual progression into your cardiovascular exercise phase of conditioning is sufficient warm-up to prevent injury. This places even more emphasis on the warm-up phase of your exercise program. Stretching after you exercise, when the muscles are at optimal conditions (warmed-up and blood flowing) will maximize flexibility gains, decrease risk of injury and help prevent muscle soreness.
How to stretch safely and effectively:
- Breathe slowly and evenly. DON’T hold your breath.
- Hold the stretch for about 30-40 seconds.
- Do not compete or compare yourself with others, everyone is different.
- Stretching should never be painful. You should feel tension but not pain.
- To achieve the most benefit for the stretch, allow your mind and body to relax.
- Never bounce when stretching. Stretching should be controlled and static.
- Increasing flexibility takes time and repetition, be patient and persistent.