Stretching for Good Health
Incorporating stretching into an exercise routine is essential for peak performance and injury prevention. When regular stretching occurs, flexibility increases and joints are better able to move through their full range of motion. This, in turn, decreases the stress put on joints and decreases the risk of injury.
In order for stretching to be most beneficial, it must be completed safely and effectively. When developing a stretching routine, consider these tips:
- Perform a light warm-up for five to 10 minutes before stretching, or wait until after your workout to finish stretching.
- Focus on the calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders while stretching. Stretch the muscles and joints used most often throughout the day or specifically during exercise. Stretch both sides of your body equally to help prevent soreness.
- Avoid bouncing while stretching, as it can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further—decreasing flexibility and increasing the likelihood of pain. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat each stretch three or four times.
- Expect to feel tension while stretching—not pain. Stretch to the point of slight discomfort, then hold it for 30 seconds.
- Make stretches sport-specific. If a particular sport uses one group of muscles more than others, spend extra time on that area to prevent injury.
- Stretch two to three times per week to achieve the best results. If a stretching routine is not kept up, there is a risk of losing the accumulated benefits.
- Bring movement into stretching. Gentle movement can help increase flexibility. The gentle movements of tai chi, for instance, may be a good way to stretch.
Not sure what the right stretches are for you? Talk to one of our Fitness Specialists or contact us to find the best approach to improving flexibility and preventing injuries.
Source: Mayo Clinic