Stretching is an essential part of any exercise program and plays a big part in preventing injury and delayed onset soreness (DOS). If a good stretching program has not been a core part of your daily exercise routine, read on to learn why it should be, and how to get started this week.
Stretching, in its most basic form, is a natural and automatic action. You might catch yourself stretching instinctively after waking from a night's sleep, or after long periods of inactivity at your workspace. And while the benefits of daily exercise are well known, the benefits of a regular stretching routine are far less emphasised but are equally vital to our well-being.
Stay Young & Limber
As you age, your muscles tighten and your range of motion in the joints can be minimised. This can limit active lifestyles and even hinder day-to-day, normal movement. Tasks that used to be simple, such as zipping up a dress or reaching for a grocery bag from the floor, now become extremely difficult. A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and make daily living activities easier as you age.
Some key benefits of regular stretching are:
Reduced muscle tension
Increased range of movement in the joints
Enhanced muscular coordination
Increased circulation of the blood to various parts of the body
Increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation)
However, one of the greatest benefits of stretching is an increase in range of motion, which means your limbs and joints can move further before an injury occurs. Stretching post-workout can aid your recovery, decrease muscle soreness, and ensure that your muscles and tendons are in good working order.
The more conditioned your muscles and tendons are, the better they can handle the rigors of sport and exercise, and the less likely that they'll become injured. This means that spontaneous match of tennis or game of tiggy with the kids isn't going to cause you injury or much delayed soreness.
Dynamic or Static? When To Do What
Without going into great depth, I always recommend that my clients use dynamic stretching (stretches that use momentum in the extension of the muscle groups) before they begin working out and save the static stretches (like the ones below) for post-workout recovery.
Current research detailed in the Medicine & Science in Sport and Exercise plus the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, suggests that the use of dynamic stretches, think slow controlled movements through the full range of motion, are the most beneficial exercises for warming up.
By contrast, static stretches are best applied afterwards for the cool down at the end of the session.