Why is stretching important?
Stretching is important as it keeps the muscles healthy, strong and flexible. This will enable us to maintain a good range of motion in the joints. If we don’t regularly stretch the muscles shorten and become tight. This can leave us more vulnerable to joint pain, sprains, strains, and muscle damage.
Tight muscles are particularly prevalent in desk-bound individuals. For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the leg. Eventually, this can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which can inhibit walking. Furthermore, when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, they may be more prone to damage from suddenly being stretched.
Regular stretching routines helps to keep the muscles long, lean, and flexible. according to Dr David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, this means that exertion “won’t put too much force on the muscle itself.” Healthy muscles also help a person with balance problems to avoid falls.
Should You Stretch Before Exercise?
According to WebMD, stretching before exercise has not been proven to prevent injury, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, or improve performance.
They also point out that static stretching (a stretch not taken through a range of motion) can weaken performance, such as sprinting, in studies. This could be due to holding a stretch, which tires the muscles out.
As an osteopath and sports therapist, I suggest to my patients that dynamic stretches are a safer way to prepare your body for exercise. For example, a good warm-up routine before a run or jog could be a brisk walk, walking lunges, leg swings, high steps, or “butt kicks” (slowly jogging forward while kicking toward your rear end).
How long should you hold a stretch?
Active or dynamic stretching uses a range of motion to lengthen muscles and improve blood flow. Static stretches can be held for anywhere between 10 seconds to 2 minutes. Stretching specific muscle groups can be repeated if necessary however, it’s advisable to not overstretch the muscle by doing many sets. It can also be beneficial to combine your stretching routine with a foam roller.
What are the benefits of stretching?
Stretching can help your body to become more balanced. In turn, this can improve your posture and overall wellbeing. It’s very unlikely that you are going to achieve full symmetry. However, it can address certain compensations in the body that could expose you to injury.