Did you stretch after your last workout? Probably not. Too often stretching is placed on the back burner. We seem to always be in a crunch for time at the gym, and after hopping of the treadmill we head for the exit instead of to the mats to stretch. But it turns out that you’re better off stretching, even if it means cutting your workout short.
Exercising, despite its numerous health benefits, can lead to injury. Stretching is crucial to prevent exercise-induced injuries. It is important to stretch lightly before a workout, and to stretch thoroughly after a workout. In addition to preventing injuries, stretching prevents muscle soreness and cramping and improves posture, circulation, and flexibility. Flexibility is an important aspect of fitness and is vital for strength and daily activities.
Before working-out, muscles are cold and stiff, and can easily be torn. To avoid unnecessary injury, do a light warm-up such as a walk, jog, or jumping rope. This will get your blood flowing and your muscles warmed up. Once the body is a little warm, do your pre-workout stretching. Despite the common belief that stretches should be held to a particular count, you should hold the stretch until the muscle feels relaxed. Stretch counts vary person-to-person, and even muscle-to-muscle.
After your workout, muscles are at their warmest, making it important to stretch immediately before the muscles cool down. Lactic acid builds up during exercise and without stretching the acid will stay in your muscles, causing soreness the following day.
To avoid soreness and to be able to hit the gym the following day, stretch for at least five minutes after your workout. Stretches should target the major muscle groups and should be performed evenly; meaning if you stretch your right quadriceps, stretch your left one, too. Stretching after exercise encourages muscles to form new muscle and improves blood flow.
So think twice before darting for the gym door without stretching first – you’ll be thankful when you are injury-free.
By Emily Borgeest