Stretching is key to helping your body stay happy and healthy while you exercise.
According to Harvard University, “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”
The Mayo Clinic says stretching is something you can do anytime anywhere. The increase in flexibility can improve performance, help avoid those pesky injuries, improve circulation, and help you do the activities you love to do. Mayo Clinic highlights these stretching essentials:
- Stretching is not a warm-up. Get warm with some low intensity movement first.
- Strive for symmetry. If one side is tighter than the other, this can lead to injury. Focus on feeling about the same on both sides of your body.
- Don’t bounce. Stretching should be smooth and gentle.
- Hold your stretch. Do what feels comfortable so that you can breathe and count for 30-60 seconds.
- Avoid pain. We’ve all heard the saying “no pain, no gain,” well that could not be further from the truth. If something is painful, ease back to a position that you
can hold comfortably.
- Consider activity-specific stretching. If you are playing soccer, quads and hamstrings might be important. Runners might focus on hip openers. Gardening might be arms and back.
- Consistency is key. Just five-to-ten minutes three times a week can lead to noticeable change.
- Add movement into your stretching. You might try Yoga, Pilates, or dynamic movements (hip circles, lunge, arm swing or plank).
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