Why is Stretching So Important?

Ask yourself the following questions…

Does it hurt to turn your head to see cars in the lane behind you?

Do your knees and back feel stiff and achy?

Is it difficult to reach the cereal on the top shelf or bend down to pick up something off the floor?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, you may find the following information useful. Simple stretching moves can improve balance, increase flexibility and ease pain. Studies show stretching may also help you improve your joint range of motion, which may in turn benefit your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Improving your flexibility may improve your day-to-day performance of physical activities and decrease your risk of injury by helping joints move through a full range of motion. Stretching also enables your muscles to work more effectively and increases blood flow throughout the body.

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Incorporating stretching exercises a minimum of three times a week will benefit you whether you are a strong athlete, an individual recovering from an accident or illness, or are a senior stretching to improve balance so you are able to overcome situations where you lose equilibrium, become unstable and fall.. Increased flexibility reduces your potential for injury and also makes it easier for your joints and muscles to move.

Here are some great tips to get you started!

Don’t consider stretching a warm-up.

You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. Before you begin stretching, we recommend warming up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up.
Also, consider holding off on stretching before an intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.
It’s important to consider that everyone’s genetics for flexibility are a bit different, so rather than striving for that gymnast or ballet dancer degree of motion, focus on having equal flexibility side to side (especially if you have a history of a previous injury).

Smooth movements.

Be sure to stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing. Bouncing as you stretch can cause injury to your muscle.

Hold your stretch.

Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds. Breathe normally as you maintain the pose.

Don’t aim for pain.

It’s important to note that while you should expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, you should not be in pain. If something hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.

Focus on your major muscle groups.

While stretching, focus on major muscle groups such as your thighs, hips, calves, lower back, neck and shoulders.
Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. The infographic below contains some examples to get you started.

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Bring movement into your stretching.

Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific postures. The gentle movements of tai chi or yoga, for instance, may be a good way to stretch.

Make it a habit.

You will achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.
 If you don’t make stretching a habit, you risk losing its benefits. Continuing your stretching routine will help you maintain and increase your range of motion over time.

Here’s a great stretching YouTube video for beginners.

*[Image via Reddit.]

 

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