A well-designed exercise program must incorporate three components: aerobics, strength training, and stretching. Most exercisers understand the value of the first two, but not too infrequently they fail to put sufficient emphasis on stretching. This is because the role of stretching in the workout routine is often rather poorly understood. Understanding the benefits of stretching and knowing how it’s done properly have their rewards.
The Benefits of Stretching
Stretching can help you:
- Increase the flexibility of your muscles: Having flexible muscles makes routine tasks such as bending to tie your shoes, or getting in and out of your car easier.
- Improve the range of motion of your joints: Stretching helps keep your joints supple and mobile by moving them through their full range-of-motion. Along with flexible muscles you need supple joints to help you perform routine tasks easily.
- Improve circulation: Stretching helps increase blood circulation to your muscles. This is very valuable for quick recovery from your workout and also to speed up healing in the event of an injury.
- Promote better posture: Stretching relaxes tight muscles, thus reducing aches and pains and promoting better posture.
- Prevent injuries: By relaxing tight muscles and joints, stretching can help you prepare for the activity, thus reducing chances of injury
Stretching Do’s and Don’ts
- Warm-up first: It used to be that the first thing you do before working out is stretching. That’s out now. Warm-up first by walking or begin the exercise you’re going to do at a low intensity for five minutes. Then stretch. The reason for this is that stretching cold muscles can directly contribute to pulled and torn muscles. Stretch again after your workout.
- Target major muscle groups: Pay particular attention to your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. These are the muscles you use most at work and play.
- Ease off if it hurts: Stretching should never hurt. If you have reached a point in your stretch where it hurts, relax to where it feels comfortable and hold the stretch.
- Hold your stretch for 30 to 60 seconds: You need to allow sufficient time for your muscle tissues to lengthen. Increase the stretch and range of motion of your joints gradually.
- Concentrate: You can listen to music or watch television while performing aerobics activity, but stretching, like weight training, is different. Perform your stretching while focusing your mind on the muscles and joints being stretched.
It is a good idea to invest in a few stretching lessons from a qualified instructor, such as a yoga or Pilates instructor, to help you perform your stretches properly.