01
April
2013

Stretching and Exercise

Why, when, and how to stretch correctly

Stretching and Exercise

Stretching has gained immense popularity in the fitness community in the last few decades, first as a complement to more rigorous exercises, and then as a fitness activity in its own right. Certainly, stretching can benefit just about everyone, from infants to the elderly, from high-performance athletes to couch potatoes. The purported benefits of stretching include increased flexibility, improved circulation and immunity, decreased risk of injury, and better athletic performance. Although stretching is certainly a healthy activity to engage in, there is a good deal of misinformation out there, both in terms of the true benefits of stretching and how to do it properly. In this article, we discuss the best way to approach stretching in your life.

Why stretch?

While not all of the good things you hear about stretching are true, there are many benefits to this type of activity when carried out correctly, including:

  • Prevention of overuse/overextension injuries
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved flexibility
  • Better physical performance later in life
  • Improved posture
  • Invigoration of organ systems and improved circulation, especially through structured activities such as yoga or pilates
  • When to stretch

    In order to get the maximum benefit from stretching, you must time it properly and carry out the right type of exercises. Many people believe that stretching prior to strenuous physical exercise is the key to preventing injury. However, this can be incorrect, especially if you attempt to stretch cold muscles. The best way to prevent injury prior to exercise is by going through a gradual warm-up period of 10-15 minutes, in which you start heating the body through range of motion exercises that mimic the harder exercise you intend to perform afterwards. Especially if the exercise you will be engaging in involves more extreme movements and range of motion than everyday activities, this warm-up using a type of stretching called “dynamic stretching” is ideal.

    Conversely, your muscles are most relaxed and warmed up after exercise, and this is the ideal moment to engage in the typical sustained form of stretching, known as “static stretching.” Both static and dynamic stretches are also recommended periodically throughout the day, especially if you have bad posture or a job that requires maintaining the same position for hours at a time.

    How to stretch

    Dynamic stretching: best used prior to exercise and as a break several times throughout the day. This form of stretching involves movement and loading of each muscle throughout its range of motion in a controlled but active exercise. Examples include lunges, leg swings, and circling your arms in the air. This type of stretch should get your blood moving and your muscles warm.

    Static stretching: best used immediately after exercise and in the evening, when your muscles are warm and supple and have been worked hard and consistently. This form of stretching involves slowly extending your muscle to its fullest extent, right below the pain threshold, and holding it there for 15-30 seconds, breathing deeply. Do not bounce at the maximum stretch point in static stretching, as this might injure the muscle. This type of stretch is ideal for flushing lactic acid and other byproducts of exercise out of the muscle, and for lengthening the muscle to prevent stiffness. Examples include standing forward bend, quad stretch, and the hurdler’s stretch.

    Categories: Exercise

    4.7/5 rating (3 votes)

    Nutrition Facts

    01
    April
    2013

    Stretching and Exercise

    Why, when, and how to stretch correctly

    Stretching and Exercise

    Stretching has gained immense popularity in the fitness community in the last few decades, first as a complement to more rigorous exercises, and then as a fitness activity in its own right. Certainly, stretching can benefit just about everyone, from infants to the elderly, from high-performance athletes to couch potatoes. The purported benefits of stretching include increased flexibility, improved circulation and immunity, decreased risk of injury, and better athletic performance. Although stretching is certainly a healthy activity to engage in, there is a good deal of misinformation out there, both in terms of the true benefits of stretching and how to do it properly. In this article, we discuss the best way to approach stretching in your life.

    Why stretch?

    While not all of the good things you hear about stretching are true, there are many benefits to this type of activity when carried out correctly, including:

  • Prevention of overuse/overextension injuries
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved flexibility
  • Better physical performance later in life
  • Improved posture
  • Invigoration of organ systems and improved circulation, especially through structured activities such as yoga or pilates
  • When to stretch

    In order to get the maximum benefit from stretching, you must time it properly and carry out the right type of exercises. Many people believe that stretching prior to strenuous physical exercise is the key to preventing injury. However, this can be incorrect, especially if you attempt to stretch cold muscles. The best way to prevent injury prior to exercise is by going through a gradual warm-up period of 10-15 minutes, in which you start heating the body through range of motion exercises that mimic the harder exercise you intend to perform afterwards. Especially if the exercise you will be engaging in involves more extreme movements and range of motion than everyday activities, this warm-up using a type of stretching called “dynamic stretching” is ideal.

    Conversely, your muscles are most relaxed and warmed up after exercise, and this is the ideal moment to engage in the typical sustained form of stretching, known as “static stretching.” Both static and dynamic stretches are also recommended periodically throughout the day, especially if you have bad posture or a job that requires maintaining the same position for hours at a time.

    How to stretch

    Dynamic stretching: best used prior to exercise and as a break several times throughout the day. This form of stretching involves movement and loading of each muscle throughout its range of motion in a controlled but active exercise. Examples include lunges, leg swings, and circling your arms in the air. This type of stretch should get your blood moving and your muscles warm.

    Static stretching: best used immediately after exercise and in the evening, when your muscles are warm and supple and have been worked hard and consistently. This form of stretching involves slowly extending your muscle to its fullest extent, right below the pain threshold, and holding it there for 15-30 seconds, breathing deeply. Do not bounce at the maximum stretch point in static stretching, as this might injure the muscle. This type of stretch is ideal for flushing lactic acid and other byproducts of exercise out of the muscle, and for lengthening the muscle to prevent stiffness. Examples include standing forward bend, quad stretch, and the hurdler’s stretch.

    Categories: Exercise

    4.7/5 rating (3 votes)

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