A good exercise program incorporates stretching, strengthening, and aerobic conditioning. Stretching is a very important part of exercising, but is often overlooked. Many people either skip stretching completely, or only spend a couple of minutes stretching. Ideally, everyone should spend time stretching daily.
There are many benefits to stretching. Stretching helps to avoid injury. Many types of pain and injuries are caused by poor flexibility. These include plantar fasciitis, headaches, tendinitis, muscle cramps, pulled or torn muscles, low back pain, and shoulder impingement. Stretching also improves posture, improves flexibility and joint range of motion, maintains normal length of muscles, releases tension in muscles, and improves circulation.
Be sure to stretch safely. Start with a gentle stretch and progress as your muscles become more flexible. The longer you hold a stretch, the more your muscles will adapt to the new length. It is recommended to hold a stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 repetitions. DO NOT BOUNCE. Find a position where you feel a pulling or stretching sensation, but not pain, and hold that position. Remember to keep breathing throughout the stretch.
Should you stretch before or after you exercise? Stretching can be part of your warm-up routine; however, be sure to start slowly and be careful not to overstretch. Once you are done exercising, your muscles will be warm and more flexible so you can be a little more aggressive in your range of stretching. If you need motivation to start a stretching program, consider finding a friend to join you, work with a personal trainer, or take a yoga class.
Every major muscle group in the body needs to be stretched. SSI has a Flexibility Exercises handout available on our website! Go HERE to download.
As always, contact a physician or physical therapist before initiating a new exercise program. If you have any questions, contact us!