The emphasis today is on how much we can get out of our exercise workouts. Zoomba, Cross fit, and Insanity are all popular ways to burn those calories we consumed yesterday, but what about the benefits of stretching? While it may help improve flexibility it also may decrease your risk of injury. Most importantly it may keep you pain free enough to go back for the next work out. Make time to incorporate stretching into your workouts.
The main benefits of stretching are thought to be:
- Improved flexibility
- Improved athletic performance
- Decreased risk of injuries
- Increased blood flow to muscles
Improved flexibility may keep your joints moving through their full range of motion. When we lose flexibility we are setup for injuries. For example a tight forearm may lead to tendonitis at the elbow and injury during that next golf game. Now you have golfer’s elbow! Stretching your forearms regularly may improve the range of motion in your elbow and decrease the risk of overload and tendonitis.
While you can stretch anytime and anywhere keep these tips in mind:
- Warm up before you stretch. Stretching cold muscles may decrease performance. A little low intensity activity first is best.
- Focus on major muscles groups. Stretch lower back, shoulders, thighs, and calves. These are the muscles we use routinely. Make sure you stretch both sides!
- Don’t bounce. Bouncing may cause micro tears in the tendons. Static stretching, holding for 20-30 seconds is best.
- Try to add sport specific stretches to your routine. If you run for example focus on hamstrings. If you golf stretch your elbows and lower back.
- Stretch regularly. At least two or three times a week. You may lose the range of motion you gained if you don’t keep up a regular program of stretching. After your work out or sport is the best time to stretch.
While stretching will not prevent all injuries it can go a long way to keep you at your best for all activities. If you have difficulty figuring out a routine a physical therapist may be the best way to get started.
It may seem to take too much time to stretch but if you will start today I think you will feel the difference tomorrow. Let me know your results from improving your stretching.