Importance of Stretching
Even though we have all heard about how important it is to stretch before and after a workout, it seems that when we’re younger, we tend to ignore such sage advice since we typically feel pretty limber to begin with.
And, if you look at little kids, they run around and jump at a moment’s notice, never once stopping to say, “Ouch, Mommy, I just pulled my hamstring.” It just doesn’t seem like little kids have to worry about pulling their muscles or hurting their knees.
As we look at the younger set who seem to be able to put in an hour of exercise and then hop back to what they were doing without stretching and without so much as a twinge of pain, we need to resist the urge to call out, “You should really be stretching before and after you exercise!”
Because, chances are, we did the same thing just a seemingly short years ago.
But, now that we’re a little older, we do know better, and even if you are a person who hasn’t stretched much in the past, it is never too late to start.
Here are some reasons why stretching is important. If your muscles are tight all the time, they certainly aren’t elastic! If you aren’t stretching those tight muscles, and they lose their elasticity, you can’t move as easily.
And, if you can’t move that easily, your muscles – not being used – begin to atrophy and you become weaker. However, if you stretch, you may not be able to physically feel it, but you’ll be allowing fluid to circulate in your joints, and that will increase mobility.
If you stretch and loosen up those tight muscles, you’ll be able to move more and be less prone to injuring not only your muscles, but also your tendons and ligaments.
You’ve probably heard that stretching after exercise is better than stretching before. The reason many experts recommend stretching afterwards is because your muscles are warm, and the stretch can help minimize any pain from the workout (remember that when you are working out, you are going to have some very tiny, microscopic tears in the muscle, along with lactic acid buildup – a waste product that accumulates when you exercise), and the stretch helps improve blood circulation which helps get rid of that lactic acid. And that helps reduce the muscle soreness!
Now, you may be saying that it’s all well and good to stretch when you’ve worked out, but how can this help if you haven’t been working out, and are just getting started again. No problem! For starters, warm up your muscles with a warm bath or shower, and then stretch!
Finally, you may have thought that “bouncing” during stretching is a good thing, but it is not. Just gently into a stretch and hold it – called a “static” stretch – gently, for about 15 seconds before easing out of the stretch. Aim for 10 – 15 minutes of gentle stretching every other day.
If you are new to working out, consult with a health professional to make sure you are healthy enough for stretching and exercise. Oftentimes, a consultation with a physical therapist can help as you design a new fitness program for yourself. Now that you’ve read about it, take action! Here’s to a more flexible you!