Benefits of stretching
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a priority for all of us, and one of the most important ways of staying ready for exercise is through regular muscle stretching. Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific skeletal muscle(or muscle group) is deliberately elongated to its fullest length (often by adduction from the torso) in order to improve the muscle's felt elasticity and reaffirm comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. By incorporating a regular flexibility program into your exercise routine you will:
- Improve circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Improved circulation can speed recovery after muscle injuries.
- Improve range of motion of your joints. Good range of motion keeps you in better balance, which will help keep you mobile and less prone to falls — and the related injuries — especially as you age.
- Increase flexibility. Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring
- Decrease muscle tension and improve your ability to relax. Stretching relaxes the tense muscles that often accompany stress.
Two types of muscle stretching help prepare an athlete for best performance. The stretching that provides best results is "Static" and "Dynamic" muscle stretching.
1. Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. It is composed of various techniques that gradually lengthen a muscle to an elongated position and hold that position for 30 seconds to two minutes. 30 seconds is the minimum duration to get the benefits of stretching, whereas two minutes is the maximum (if a position can be held for more than two minutes, a farther stretch should be performed).
2. Dynamic stretching uses momentum and an exaggerated range of motion to warm up muscles for subsequent exercise. Unlike static stretching the end position is not held. Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. Dynamic stretching is useful before competition and has been shown to reduce muscle tightness. This is not to be confused with ballistic stretching, which can be dangerous.
A complete stretching routine can take as little as 10 minutes. The best time to stretch is after you have warmed up and the muscles are warm. Focus on stretching the muscles you use the most during your specific exercise or sport.
Proper Stretching Technique
- Perform balanced stretching. This means you should always stretch the muscles on both sides of your body evenly. Don’t stretch one side more than the other side.
- Avoid over-stretching. Never stretch to the point of pain or discomfort. Expect to feel tension while you're stretching. If it hurts, you've gone too far. Back off to the point where you don't feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
- Go slow and pace yourself. Always stretch slowly and evenly. Hold the stretch for about fifteen to 30 seconds and release slowly as well, then repeat on the other side. Do each stretch three or four times.
- Never bounce or jerk while stretching. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further — making you less flexible and more prone to pain. All stretches should be smooth, and slow.
- Don't forget to relax and breathe freely. Flexibility exercises should be relaxing. Deep easy, even breathing is the key to relaxation. Don't hold your breath while you're stretching.
Remember you can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work or when you're travelling. Stretching is a fantastic way to improve your fitness and flexibility.
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