Unfortunately, many people avoid stretching, execute it poorly or don’t do enough of it. The body relies on being stretched. We understand the benefits of feeling physically and mentally fit, as well as the importance of quality life. What many people fail to comprehend is that regular stretching has just as much influence on our body’s ability to perform efficiently. Here are some of the benefits of stretching:
- Improves flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness
- Improves range of motion in your joints
- Improves circulation
- Helps prevent injury
- Improves posture
- Helps with the power and elasticity of our muscles
- Assists in achieving better coordination, muscle control and proper technique in sport
- Enables your body to perform more with less energy
- It simply feels good
It’s a clear-skied morning, and you decide to go out for a little run. You tie on your running shoes, head outside, and do your usual two-minute stretching routine. You jump up and down a couple of times to get your blood moving, then off you go! Like driving, stretching, has its own set of rules for the road, but there is a definitely a right way to do it.
There are a number of reasons why people don’t stretch. Non-athletes in particular tend not to stretch unless their muscles or joints feel stiff or sore. We all know how important stretching is, especially before, during and after exercising, but how many people religiously do it when required? We all have different stretching needs and it’s a matter of ensuring that you’ve got it right and not exposing yourself to the risk of injury.
· DO stretch after your workout, not before. Doing a few static stretches at the end of a single workout will help with next-day muscle soreness so you won’t be moving like a corpse.
· DO stretch tight muscles when work out a favorite a specific body part. For instance, if your chest is strong and your calves are tight, which is very common, stretch your calves between sets of bench presses. In order to truly increase your flexibility with stretching, you must do it often.
· DO stretch if you have poor posture. Muscles shorten over time and can contribute to poor posture, which can also be caused by consistently training over a limited range of motion.
· DON’T hold an intense stretch for longer than 15 seconds. Lack of oxygen to the muscles can increase the development of connective tissue, which decreases strength and may actually promote inflexibility.
· DON’T stretch first thing in the morning, especially if you have a low back injury. Wait at least one hour after awakening. While you sleep, your spine swells with fluid, and the risk of injury is heightened if you stretch right after you wake up.
· DON’T hold your breath during a stretch, as this will tense your muscles. Instead, you need to relax by exhaling longer than inhaling.
There’s a time and place for everything, and stretching is no exception. If you follow these basic rules, you’ll get the most out of it. Call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to request an appointment.