Why Should You Stretch?
Stretching helps improve and/or maintain flexibility in the body tissues that can become tight/shortened both with exercise and from maintained static positions. Muscles can become increasingly shortened over time if not properly stretched leading to decreased range of motion (ROM), poor posture, increased pain and increased risk of injury.
5 Benefits of Stretching
- Increased ROM within the joints of the body by improving the length of shortened muscle and tissues
- Improved strength by stretching you increase circulation to the muscle and tissues of the body, which improves the overall health of the muscle, as well as decrease soreness and shorten muscle recovery time after exercise.
- Decreases stress by stretching, especially stretching activities such as yoga, allows your muscles and mind to relax.
- Decrease risk of Injury by allowing more flexibility in your joints will decrease the chance of injury with activity.
- Improve posture by stretching, especially static stretching, can improve muscular balance thus improve postural throughout the day.
When should you stretch and why?
Stretching should be performed daily to maintain the length of muscles and promote good body alignment with everyday activity. When exercising it is good to stretch before and after you exercise.
The APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) suggests dynamic stretching, known as using movement to combine muscle groups, prior to exercise while utilizing static stretch, known as holding a stretch position for a long period, after exercise. Dynamic stretching is usually held for briefer periods of time 3-5 seconds while static stretching is best held for 30-60 seconds in order to achieve a permanent tissue lengthening.
3 Beneficial Stretches for Exercising
1. Standing Calf
Stand about three feet from a wall and put your left foot behind you ensuring your toes are facing forward. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward with your left knee straight. Rotating the toes in and out slightly will target the medial and lateral parts of this muscle separately. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Standing Quadriceps
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, pull your abdominal in, and relax your shoulders. Bend your left leg, bringing your heel toward your butt, and grasp your left foot with your left hand. You should feel a mild pull gradually spread through the front of your left leg.
3. Supine Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back with your legs out. Raise the leg to be stretched with the knee slightly bent. Grasp the calf or thigh and gently pull the upper leg. Continue to the point of a mild stretch and hold. Repeat for each leg.