There’s always some level of confusion around certain topics. You hear people all the time tell you that something is important, but you aren’t sure why. Maybe for you this is pop stars. Who is Taylor Swift and why should you care? Maybe it’s the potential health problems with coffee. You don’t want anybody to take the pleasure of your morning cup of joe away. Most of these topics are okay to miss out on, but not all.
Whether it’s your doctor, a YouTube video, a friend, or a day time TV show, you’ve probably heard that it’s very important to stretch. Maybe you’ve even internalized it and started stretching. Do you know why it’s important though? Are you stretching at the right time? In the right way? If not, you should. It can save you a lot of future pain.
Why Stretching is Important
It’s not likely that I can tell you why stretching is important any better than Harvard Health could, so let me begin by telling you what their newsletter did in 2013: “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy.” The flexibility that stretching provides can help you to maintain the range of motion in your muscles and joints that many lose over time. This works to prevent common health issues such as arthritis, and tendonitis.
Stretching keeps your muscles and joints long and loose, where not stretching can make them short and tight. When this happens, your muscles are more prone to injury, and can feel weak and achy. Consider this: you’ve spent the entire day in an office chair, with your ankles switching between a weak posture and lying lazily on the floor. You get off work and head to the basketball court. How do you think your ankles will feel during the game? They will likely burn, ache, and be stiff. You will need to be more careful of your step, as this can also lead to injury. As we talked about recently, a lack of stretching can cause sprained ankles, and other similar injuries.
The more you stretch, the more your muscles can do. If you stretch regularly or participate in yoga, you would be amazed in your body’s flexibility and mobility. Otherwise, you may find yourself struggling to grab a coffee mug later in life. Consider stretching an investment.
When Should I Stretch
There are different kinds of stretches, and they should be performed at different times. There are dynamic stretches, static stretches, and posture stretches. Dynamic stretches are stretches like arm circles, that involve moving muscles. In contrast, static stretches are stretches, like many yoga poses, that involve holding a muscle in position. A posture stretch can be dynamic or static, but is more of an “everyday” stretch. Posture stretches should be done on a regular schedule, as they will help with your back, legs, and arms — the muscles that are too often rested. These stretches should work out the pectoral muscles, hips, lumbar extensions, and upper trapezius muscles.
Dynamic stretches, like (again) arm circles, should be done before exercises. Many people who know that they should be stretching but not why perform static stretches before a workout, but these haven’t been shown to have any effect on health. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, have a tremendous ability to prevent injury during a workout. Dynamic stretches should always be performed according to the muscles you will be working out — arm circles don’t make much sense on leg day.
Static stretches are best performed after a workout. Stretching a muscle statically after a workout will help return the muscle to its natural state, which will keep the muscle from becoming stiff. Unfortunately, no stretches will help with soreness after a workout, but being more flexible might. Regular stretching should keep some of the after work out soreness away, though it’s yet to be proved.
How Do I Begin Stretching? What is The Proper Way to Stretch?
It’s easy to begin stretching: just get up and stretch! If you’re looking to stretch more, consider setting goals. Consult a physician or orthopedic doctor to see what kind of stretching would be best for you and your body, and how they should be performed. You can also take yoga classes, which will help with almost all common health issues.
Defining a proper stretch is difficult, and is something you should talk to a doctor about. There are a few generic tips you can follow. For example, a static stretch should always be held for at least 30 seconds a day. To maintain and improve muscle flexibility, you should stretch a muscle for 30 seconds each day, every day. You can trust your gut with the form. If a stretch hurts, you may be doing it wrong.