Benefits of Stretching
Studies about the benefits of stretching have had mixed findings. Some show that stretching helps, while others show that stretching has little if any benefit. The main benefits of stretching are THOUGHT to be:
- Improving athletic performance
- Decreasing the risk of activity-based injuries
Stretching can help improve flexibility. And better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion.
Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle. What I find best about my stretch time and you may also come to enjoy, is the ritual of stretching before — or better yet, after — your workout regime.
Before you plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work, in a hotel room or at the park — you want to be sure to use proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good.
Note to Self
- Don’t consider stretching a warm-up. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for 5 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. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.
- Focus on major muscle groups. When you’re stretching, focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. And make sure that you stretch both sides.
- Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further, making you less flexible and more prone to pain. So, hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch three or four times (I know it sounds like a long time, but you’re worth it!)
- Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
- Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity.
- Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming, but you can achieve the best benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week. If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that stretching offered.
- Breathe into your stretching. Although it’s challenging to hold your breath for the duration of the 30 second stretch, it’s what most people aim to do. Breath in slowly and fully and exhale deeply. This will help your body to relax into the stretch.
Know when to exercise caution
In some cases, you may need to approach stretching with caution. If you have a chronic condition or an injury, you may need to adjust your stretching techniques. If you already have a strained muscle, stretching it may cause further harm.
Let’s stretch it out this fine Wednesday!
I can see you GETTIN’ FIERCE!