Why Is Stretching Important?

Filed under: Fitness

stretchingStretching is one part of our workout that most of us are tempted to skip. After all, as busy as we all are, it’s good enough that we work exercise into our schedules at all. Right?

Not so fast! Neglecting this part of fitness can really backfire on you. Stretching before exercise increases your range of motion, which reduces your risk of injury. It also increases blood flow to your muscles so that they perform better.

Stretching is particularly important after exercise. When you use your muscles, they become fatigued, short, and tight. This causes them to develop unneeded connective tissue, which can contribute to a loss of flexibility, tendonitis, and pain. Stretching is also important after sitting still or standing in one place all day, as many of us are likely to do at work. While you may not think of these activities as exercise, they are extremely taxing on certain muscle groups. So stretching after a long day’s work is just as important as stretching after exercise.

From an aesthetic point of view, stretching regularly leads to a longer, leaner appearance of the muscles. It also helps you to develop better posture, so that you appear more confident and poised. Think of how ballet dancers look to the rest of us. That’s a group of people who definitely do not neglect their stretches!

So how often should you stretch, and for how long? Follow these simple rules:

  • Stretch for ten minutes per day. Yes, just ten minutes will improve your flexibility and help to prevent injuries.
  • Stretch before and after exercise. If you aren’t exercising today, stretch for ten minutes after work to release tension.
  • Ease slowly into and out of each stretch. It should feel like a continuous motion, rather than popping into and out of various bodily contortions.
  • Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
  • If your schedule allows, consider adding a yoga class to your exercise routine. One class per week will help you to develop better flexibility.

If your primary focus is losing weight, just think of the setback you’ll suffer if you sustain an injury. If you’re unable to exercise for weeks while you recover, your entire weight loss plan will be thrown off balance. Stretching will protect your muscles, while keeping you on track toward your fitness and weight loss goals. 

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