Stretching: An Underrated Exercise
We’ve grown up hearing that stretching is necessary before a workout. But the latest research from Harvard University suggests that stretching the muscles before they're warmed up can actually hurt them. Apparently, the fibers aren't prepared and may be damaged. If you exercise first and get some blood circulating, tissue becomes more pliable and able to change. All it takes is five to 10 minutes of light activity, such as a quick walk. You can also stretch after an aerobic or weight-training workout.
You should stretch your body regularly, ideally every day. Muscle remains strong, flexible, and healthy through stretching and also improves our range of motion in the joints, something that becomes extremely important later on in life. Without stretching, muscles contract and tighten. Then, when require muscles for activity, they are weak and immobile putting you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
The most important areas for mobility are in your lower extremities - calves, hamstrings, hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Stretching your neck, shoulders, and lower back is also beneficial. Try to stretch multiple times over the course of the day. It’s an activity that requires no equipment, special clothes, or space. You can stretch at home, the office, even at school. You should feel tension during a stretch, but not pain. If you do, there may be an injury, damage in the tissue, or bad form. Stop stretching that muscle and seek advice from a gymrat.
Stretching regularly may also improve blood circulation and is great for stress relief. As you experience physical and emotional stress, your muscles tighten and tense up. While you stretch, focus on mindfulness and meditation exercises, which give your mind a mental break.
Stretching once today won't immediately give you spiderman-like flexibility. It takes time, practice, and effort. Not only can stretching help increase your flexibility, which is an important factor of fitness, but it can also improve your posture, reduce stress and body aches, and more. So stop reading and start stretching!