Do I Really Need to Stretch?

by Louise | March 3rd, 2009 | Exercises

stretchWhen fitting exercise into a tight schedule, making room for stretching before and after workouts often can be a hassle that ends up getting skipped or simply avoided: “I’m setting time aside to get active and burn some calories; stretching seems like wasting precious minutes… Is it really necessary?” The answer is yes.

Okay, we know we’re supposed to stretch because we’ve heard it prevents injury. So, before our workout, we attempt to touch our toes a couple times and hold our arms across our chest for a couple seconds. Satisfied? We shouldn’t be. That kind of stretching does nothing for us, in fact “bouncing” in stretches is not only ineffective but can lead to injuries if you accidentally over-stretch. Stretches are most effective when they are static, and held for 15-30 seconds each. You should make sure to have stretches for various muscle groups, not just your arms or legs, even if your workout has a specific focus. Stretching should take at least 5 minutes, if not ten to fifteen.

The several benefits of stretching make it worth the time for any workout. In fact, studies have revealed that daily stretching is beneficial to anyone, even those that don’t exercise regularly. The main point of stretching is that it increases flexibility. With increased flexibility, your joints and muscles are able to handle the ensuing exercises better. Lack of stretching can create stiffness over time, which leads to quicker deterioration of muscle and consequently a decrease in overall health. (What a chain reaction!)

You may think that a quick jog doesn’t require stretching because you won’t be moving your muscles to any extremes, but stretching before actually can enhance your performance and allows for a faster recovery. Additionally, stretching after exercise can relax your muscles. Strenuous activities cause lactic acid to build in the muscles; lactic acid is what makes us feel sore or stiff the day after a tough workout. Stretching speeds up the process that allows the lactic acid to escape from your body. It lengthens the muscles that became tense and shortened during exercise, thus you end up feeling better!

Stretching is a necessary and rewarding aspect of exercise that should not be overlooked.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.