Some people stretch every day, some stretch occasionally, and others don’t stretch at all. Do we really need to stretch? When so much focus is put on aerobics and building muscle, it’s easy to forget about something as simple as stretching. Here’s why you shouldn’t:
Importance of Stretching
Stretching can enhance your workout performance and reduce the chance of potential injury. It strengthens your muscles. This is especially important for muscles that surround joints. When muscles are tight and suddenly stretched, they can become damaged. If they’re already weak or injured, the muscles may not be able to support the joint it holds in place–furthering injury.
Stretching also assists in creating a flexible, strong, and healthy range of motion. Having a good range of motion isn’t just needed for working out; it’s important for everyday movements like walking, standing up, and sitting down. Maintaining mobility is one major benefit to stretching consistently.
It’s a Process
Stretching here and there will not produce any change or improvement. It has to be an ongoing effort to see results. For those who want to integrate stretching into their routines, Harvard Health recommends starting with calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps stretches. Once comfortable with that, stretching the neck, shoulders, and back will be beneficial.
Result time will vary for each individual. The main factor affecting change is how flexible you are, to begin with.
Another important thing to remember when stretching is that stretching muscles before they are warmed up have adverse effects. They could be damaged without proper blood flow. A light activity, like a quick walk, is recommended before stretching.
When stretching, pay attention to how your body feels. You don’t want to stretch too quickly or too far. This can cause your muscles to contract as a way to protect themselves from injury, but contractions also cause muscles to be less responsive to length change. You should feel tension while stretching, but NOT pain.
Written by GUADS staff member Toni with contribution from livestrong.com and health.harvard.edu