Is Stretching Good For You?
Can regular stretching be as important as regular exercise? A lot of people neglect this aspect of their fitness regime, even though stretching has major benefits. I often hear people say they don’t bother with stretching after exercise “because it’s boring”. Hopefully I can inspire you to make it part of your fitness regime by explaining why it might be good for you!
What do we mean by stretching?
Stretching can be seen as a natural and instinctive activity performed by humans and many animals and often occurs after waking from sleep or after long periods of inactivity.
Stretching is also a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle is stretched in order to improve the muscle’s elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion.
Increasing flexibility through stretching is one of the basic fundamentals of physical fitness. It is commonly done to reduce the risk of injury and increase performance.
There are many techniques for stretching and many views as to when it should be done. There is some debate as to whether stretching before exercise is beneficial. Personally I think more harm can be done when trying to stretch a cold, tight muscle before warming up.
By doing your basic stretch routine after exercise you can help improve flexibility by increasing your range of motion. You can assist in correcting posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position or that pull areas of your body closer together restricting proper movement. Stretching decreases injury and increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles, reducing the effect of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). If done properly, stretching can prevent injury and relax the muscles.
To benefit from stretching:
Stretch after your workout when your muscles are already warm. After spending time in the gym contracting your muscles to perform certain routines it is good to lengthen them again with your stretch regime.
Focus on a key area of the body. If you are aware of muscles that are tight, then concentrate on those areas.
How long should I hold a stretch?
I am sure there are lots of views on this! Holding a stretch for 30 seconds and repeating 3 times will probably give you the best results for your time and efforts. Static stretching (no movement) is done after exercise – ballistic stretching (a rapid bouncing stretch) is best avoided unless you know what you are doing and why you are doing it! Dynamic stretching can be done as a walking or movement stretch during a warm up programme. By performing slow controlled movements through full range of motion, a person reduces risk of injury once warmed up.
Why do we do it?
•Flexibility and correction of posture
•Mobility - tight muscles can limit movement
Key muscles to stretch:
Quadriceps (front of thigh)
Hamstrings (back of thigh)
Pectorals (front of chest)
Hip flexors (deep hip muscles)
A word of warning, however - over-stretching or stretching to a point where pain is felt may be inappropriate and detrimental. We are all individuals and some people are more
flexible than others.
Consult a qualified trainer to assist with your stretches, they will give you ideas and feedback as to whether you are doing them correctly and whether they are appropriate for you.
So to summarise:
Stretch your way to better flexibility and better health.
Richard Marfell - Wellness Coach
Copyright Richard Marfell 2017
2.Warm up before stretching
3.Hold for 30 seconds
4.Stretch to point of bind (mild discomfort)
5.Get advice to avoid injury
6.Consider partner stretching to alleviate boredom
7.Over stretching to a point of pain may be detrimental