I have spent the last two weeks doing health assessments on a variety of people from all walks of life and the one piece of advice which I kept repeating time and time again was why it is so important to stretch. If the topic of stretching had to be reiterated to 300+ people, I am guessing that there are a few people within our own Pro-Fit Community who probably need a reminder as well.
Stretching is one of those things we often neglect at the end of a training session; either because we are too tired after slogging ourselves into the ground or because we have run out of time, but taking the time out to stretch is probably one of the most important parts of a balanced workout. By overlooking post-workout stretches, muscle and connective tissue will shorten over time resulting in less flexibility and joint mobility.
During a workout, your muscles are repeatedly tensing and stretching. This causes them to tighten and shorten as a result. While you may not feel your muscle tightening when you are warmed up, after a few hours your muscles will feel stiff and inflexible. Thorough stretching will help to prevent muscle discomfort.
Stretching (and lengthening) muscles improves flexibility, essentially maximising the range of motion available to joints. Increased flexibility improves muscle balance around joints, encourages correct posture and reduces the chance of injury during activity. Stretching after exercise also increases blood and nutrient supply to muscle tissue and cartilage which aids. Proper muscle recovery will encourage energy levels to return to an optimum state so you can return to exercising sooner, hence stretching really is crucial to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.
How To Stretch:
It is important to stretch slowly and with controlled and purposeful movement. Common static stretching is probably the safest form of stretching and it is easy to learn. A static stretch involves relaxation and concurrent elongation of the stretched muscle. Hold each stretch for 1 to 3 sets, lasting around about 30 seconds. When stretching a pulling sensation is normal, aim to hold the stretch at a point of mild tension; do not go to the point of pain. When you push to increase flexibility, do so gradually and consider your pain threshold. During the stretch keep breathing natural and avoid laboured breathe. It is also important to avoid bouncing during the stretch as this can cause hyperextension and possibly lead to injury.
Do Not Stretch If:
- You have strained a muscle or tendon during activity, stretching when injured can cause further damage.
- Muscles are infected, inflamed or hurt.
- You have had a recent fracture.
- You feel sharp pains in muscle or joints.
- Your muscles are cold (always warm up beforehand).
Many people struggle with poor flexibility and it is common for people to dismiss it as a genetic trait which is out of their control. Others disregard flexibility as not that important because they are still able to do exercise and day-to-day activities with relative ease. It is universally understood that flexibility decreases with age, regardless of regular stretching, but those who do stretch are in a better position for maintaining mobility and reducing the risk of injury throughout life. So if you are one of those people who ‘forget’ to stretch, I encourage you to think about your quality of life in the long term and by dedicating the time to stretching now you will ensure better flexibility and mobility later in life.
Use it or Lose it!