Many of us think of stretching as something relevant to athletes or gymnasts, but everyone needs to stretch to protect their mobility and physical health. Whether you’re new to working out, have been running for years, or are simply feeling stiff, you can reap the benefits of a regular stretching routine. By incorporating dynamic and static stretches into your exercise regimen each day, you can reduce stress, boost your blood circulation, increase your range of motion, and improve your posture.
Read on to learn the importance of stretching before exercise, when to do it, and how long for.
Why is stretching so important?
- It increases your flexibility which is vital for good overall health. By improving your flexibility, you can continue performing daily activities with relative ease while delaying the reduced mobility that aging can bring.
- It can improve poor posture, which is often caused by a muscle imbalance. Poor posture is extremely common these days, especially as many of us spend most of our day sitting in front of a screen. By stretching and conditioning certain muscle groups, you may be able to reduce musculoskeletal pain and help your spine to align properly.
- Regular stretching can also improve circulation, increasing blood flow to the muscles. This increased blood flow can quicken recovery time in the event of an injury and minimize muscle soreness.
- Performing dynamic stretches before exercising helps to prepare the relevant muscles for the exercise, and it may help improve performance in an athletic setting.
- We can release stress and anxiety by stretching. When we feel stressed, many of us unintentionally tense our muscles, particularly the neck, shoulders, and upper back. By stretching these muscles, we allow ourselves to feel more physically relaxed, and, as a result, less stressed. Regular stretching can also help alleviate tension headaches, which are often brought on by stress, too.
- It can help reduce back pain. Tight muscles often decrease your range of motion which increases your risk of straining your back muscles. A regular stretching routine can help prevent muscle strain and future back pain by strengthening your back muscles.
When should I stretch and how long for?
If you’re heavily involved in sports, you should be performing a dedicated stretching regimen at least three times each week. It’s also important to warm up before and after practice or competitions. You want to warm up for five to 10 minutes before you start your stretching routine. This warm-up should involve a light version of the sport or exercise you’re about to play and will loosen the muscles. The purpose of this warm-up is to increase blood flow to your tendons and muscles.
If you’re stretching for your general health, try to stretch 1-2 times a day, for 5-10 minutes at a time. Stretching when you first get up, whenever you feel stiff after sitting for long periods (such as at work), and before bed are all great times to stretch out those stiff muscles.
Hold each stretch gently for at least 30 seconds and repeat each stretch two or three times for each muscle group you want to loosen up. Remember that these initial stretches should not feel painful, and it takes time for your muscles to relax and loosen up. You’ll have a greater range of motion by the end, so don’t force a deeper stretch. Take your time when you stretch and avoid forcing a stretch if you want to make the most out of the process – if you have time, feel free to hold stretches for 30-90 seconds to get the most out of each stretch, breathing in deeply to facilitate relaxation.
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