The Importance of Stretching
Stretching is sometimes the middle child of exercise — often overlooked. Although it may seem like an afterthought to working out, stretching is essential to living a healthy life. So why should stretching be a staple in your fitness routine? It will improve your athletic ability and decrease your risk for injuries. It does this by increasing your flexibility and mobility, while improving your blood pressure and energy levels. What's more, researchers have even found that stretching can make you feel less stressed and boost your mood.
Are you looking for ways to incorporate stretching into your fitness routine? Here are five tips for healthy stretching:
- Don't bounce
Bouncing while stretching can cause your body's protective reflexes to kick in, meaning your muscles will contract instead of stretch. As a result, micro-tears can appear in your muscles and cause scar tissue as the muscle heals. This scar tissue can reduce flexibility and make you more prone to pain.
- Stretching shouldn't cause pain
While stretching to the point of discomfort is a sign that your muscles are being stretched, it shouldn't cause you pain. If you're in pain while stretching, you've pushed the muscle too far. Try backing off to the point where you only feel tension and hold that pose for 30 seconds.
- Remember to breathe
Breathing is an important way to get the most out of your stretching. When you exhale, new blood is circulated throughout your entire body, which can improve the elasticity of your muscles. In addition, holding your breath may also temporarily increase your blood pressure. The best way to breathe while stretching is to keep it slow and regular.
- Tailor your stretching to your workout
After exercising, it's important to stretch every muscle you used during that workout. For example, a runner should stretch their quads, hamstrings, calves and hips after every run. As a rule of thumb, make sure you stretch both sides of your body equally and hold every stretch for approximately 30 seconds before releasing.
- Stretch regularly
When it comes to stretching, results aren't immediate. It takes time for your muscles to adapt. By stretching two to three times a week, you can achieve numerous benefits. These include increased mobility and improved circulation.
So next time you work out, don't forget to stretch! Get started with this three-minute post-cardio stretch routine.