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We know that having a regular exercise routine is vital for a healthy mind and body. What isn’t regularly discussed is how to start and end your exercise routine. Stretching is something that is a common exercise practice, but has received conflicting stances within the fitness community. You can hear contrary opinions from coaches, personal trainers, instructors, professional athletes, friends, and family. Everyone has different views on stretching, so what should you do?
Types of Stretches
Stretching a muscle to the most of your ability and holding for 30 seconds is called a static stretch. It’s perfectly fine to stretch for longer, as long as you don’t hurt yourself. A dynamic stretch moves an entire muscle group fluidly.
Stretching Before Exercise
There is no substantial proof that shows that stretching before a workout lowers risk of injury or muscle soreness. There are many studies that go both ways on the subject. Everything depends on age, joint stiffness, and personal preference.
Exercise physiologist Mike Bracko says that static stretching before a workout can actually strain and fatigue your muscles. Contrary to popular belief, stretching does not warm the muscle up, unless it involves a greater range of motion than every day activity. The best warm up is a lower intensity version of the workout you are about to start. If you do choose to stretch, do a dynamic stretch that incorporates the muscle groups you plan on using in your workout. Try walking lunges, leg swings, and high steps.
Stretching After Exercise
The absolute best time to stretch is after exercise! Because you increase circulation in the muscles and joints, you become more flexible. After you exercise, you can get the most out of stretching—both static and dynamic. Stretching can also help in loosening you up after a hard or long workout, so you don’t feel so stiff. Remember to cool down first and then stretch—the perfect transition and way to end a great workout.
What matters most is that you are stretching sometime. When you’re in the same position all day, it’s important to do a quick stretch break to reverse your posture—which you should be doing every hour. One of the best stretches you can do is the Standing Cat-Camel, the essential back stretch that’s best for combating work-related back aches. Stand shoulder-width apart with slightly bent knees. As you lean forward, place hands above knees. Round your back, make your chest closed and shoulder forward. Then arch your back, so your chest opens and shoulders roll back.
Stretching is Important
The American College of Sports and Medicine found that regular flexibility maintains joint movement. They recommend stretching each major muscle group two times a week for 60 seconds. Other studies show that routinely stretching improves muscle movement that decreases with age. Regular stretching helps prevent this aging process. This can be very important when you have long hours at work. When you stretch the muscles that are constantly being shortened or strained through your daily routine and work schedule, it can be preventative for pain. Especially when you’re feeling back pain from your posture or sitting at a desk for hours on end, stretching can reverse these pains and aches.