Stretching for Better Health & Flexibility
If we’re being honest I have to admit I’m the worst when it comes to stretching and only tend to do so after an intense leg day to ease the muscle tightness that is guaranteed to follow. Once a week that’s about how often I stretch, twice on a good week. I know stretching is important. I even have tons of those “how to stretch your way to splits” articles pinned on Pinterest, but have I ever followed through? Nope. Can I do the splits? Kinda, barely, almost on one side but they are definitely a cheater split. I know I should be stretching more, everyone should be. Especially those of us who are performing or dancing almost nightly. I know plenty of you already know the importance of stretching and do it all the time. For everyone else who is more like me, I get it, stretching isn’t always something you look forward to or even make time for but you should be. Why? You ask. Well,
Let’s start with the Health Benefits:
Mobility & Range of Motion
Regular stretching aids in flexibility by lengthening the tendons, or muscle fibers, and increasing Range of Motion. It also leads to better posture by relieving tense and tight muscles in the upper body that can effect back alignment.
Stretching improves the circulation of blood flow to muscles and joints which helps to deliver nutrients to our cells and remove waste. In fact, prolonged stretching such as yoga, in combination with diet, can help to reduce cholesterol and reverse the hardening of arteries.
Reduced Stress & Brighter Outlook on Life
Stretching when done properly can relieve tight and tense muscles caused by stress and bring about feelings of relaxation. It also helps to release endorphins that provide a sense of euphoria which can help jump start the mind and lead to a happier outlook on life.
Not only does stretching have health benefits but when you stretch and what type of stretching you do is important too.
The debate about if you need to stretch pre & post workout is constantly up for question. The answer is simple, Yes. You should be stretching before a workout to help warm up and stretching after a workout to help restore muscle length. The key is what type of stretching you should do pre & post workout. Dynamic and Static are the two basic types of stretching and each of them are best at a certain time.
Dynamic stretching means your body is in constant motion, moving quickly through positions while you stretch. Because of this dynamic stretching is ideal for warming up pre-workout. This constant movement activates the muscles you will use during your workout as well as increases range of motion, lowering risk of injury. It also helps to get your blood flowing and raises internal body temperature, providing a cardio warm-up that prepares your body for exercise or a performance.
Static stretching is done by holding a position for a certain duration, usually about 30 seconds. Because static stretching is done for a prolonged amount of time it elongates the muscle fibers, helping to alleviate muscle tightness and leads to increased flexibility. The ideal time to perform static stretches is post workout. The muscles are already warm and ligaments are joints are more elastic. Keeping these things in mind, it’s important to note that static stretching done pre-workout can actually hinder your workout. This is due to the fact that once muscle fibers are held in a static stretch they stay elongated for approximately ten to fifteen minutes which makes the weaker and more prone to injury during exercise.
I hope this helps you think twice before you skip your next post-workout stretch session or go to workout cold. I too will be trying to add at least 5 minutes of stretching to my daily routine!