To Stretch, Or Not To Stretch?

There are several different opinions and concepts regarding whether to stretch or not to stretch while exercising. Quite honestly, I think most view it as more of a “chore” then enjoyment or a necessity with their exercise routine.  *Raising hand, anyone???

It is a fact that stretching does help improve your flexibility and range of motion, but this can beneficial or a detriment, depending on what your goal is with  your exercise routine.

For example, if you were to wake up first thing in the morning and bend down to touch your toes, you’d likely make it half way, then start hearing all the cracking and moans coming from your tight body, correct?  That’s because your muscles are “cold” and need to be warmed up, before they are stretched out.  So, much like any exercise activity, if it’s just your goal to take a day of stretching or Yoga, you must warm up the muscles beforehand.

What do I mean by “warming up” prior to stretching?  A light walk in place or jog, jump rope or jumping jacks.  This only has to last for 2-3 minutes, then you can ease into a stretching routine.  I do always recommend, a light warm up, followed by a short stretching period, before enduring any physical exercise activity.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that warming up DOES NOT EQUAL to stretching before exercise. Warming up helps preparing your muscles and joints for the exercise, and it does help to minimize risk of injury during exercise. Stretching can help you elongate your muscles and flexibility, but when done before exercise it should be a lighter stretching compared to the one you do at the end of your exercise routine. Stretching after your regular routine is very important to help you prevent soreness after exercise. It will help relax your muscles and, of course, yourself.

There are some studies that show that people who do not regularly stretch before (and after) exercise are subject to injury, than those who do stretch on a regular basis. Interesting enough, people who normally stretch and stop doing so before exercise show the same predisposition to get injured during their exercise routine.

My advice for you is: if you currently stretch before and after exercise, continue doing so. If you don’t stretch, you may start doing so but very lightly, and slowly, with time, increase the stretching periods for each muscle.

Remember that before exercise you should stretch, but not before you do a light warm up.  As you commence your exercise activity, you can do a regular stretching routine to bring your heart rate down and work on lengthening and increasing your flexibility. The important thing to keep in mind is that this will help you and your muscles relax after exercise, and it must not be painful at all. If you start feeling pain while stretching, then shorten your stretching periods and/or range of motion. Normally it should be less than 60 seconds per muscle, just until you feel that ‘pull’, but it must not feel painful.

 

 

Your partner in fitness & health.

Comments

  1. Gallagher2201 says:

    This article is minus any actual research into stretching. I would suggest finding some research regarding proper warm up activities before you write about subjects in which you have obvious little knowledge.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your comment….as I appreciate what you have to say, perhaps you can share with us your vast knowledge on the subject?

  3. Gallagher2201 says:

    Perhaps you should research studies that show evidence that stretching does not decrease the chance of injury. Perhaps you should research studies showing that stretching may hinder power and strength when performed pre-workout or pre-game. Perhaps you should research when it is most appropriate to stretch before you post your blogs.

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