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The importance of stretching

Stretching is a part of exercise that is often ignored, by seasoned athletes as well as ordinary people. Eager to begin their workout, they jump right into it without properly stretching. This can lead to pain and tightness in the muscles after a workout and can even adversely affect their overall performance. Most exercises subject the body to tears in the tendons and ligaments, cause muscle strains and bone fractures, however stretching does just the opposite.

What are the benefits of stretching?

  • Improves muscle balance around joints and increases flexibility and range of motion.
  • Warms the soft tissues to help prevent injury.
  • Increases blood flow and much-needed oxygen to all areas of the body.
  • Decreases muscle stiffness and cramping.
  • Improves muscle tone, posture, flexibility and coordination.
  • Decreases back pain.
  • Improves overall total performance.
  • Helps promote healing to muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints following injury.
  • Helps to eliminate stress and improve mental acuity.

In order to get the most from stretching, the following points should be observed:

  • Stretch before and after exercise, whether it be aerobic or weight-training.
  • Perform a five to ten-minute warm-up before stretching. Walking at a measured pace, jogging slowly or jumping rope can suffice, but never stretch cold muscles.
  • Stretching after exercise should be done within ten minutes after completion before the muscles have had time to cool off.
  • Do not bounce during stretching. This can cause pulling or tearing of the muscle.
  • Stretch gradually. If a stretch is applied too quickly, the Golgi tendon reflex kicks in and the muscle will contract instead of relaxing.
  • Never stretch to the point of pain, and it's not necessary to count. Simply stretch until you feel the muscle relax.

Stretching takes up only about ten to fifteen minutes of your time, but it can greatly add to your overall performance and increase the efficiency of your workout. In order to stretch safely and receive the maximum benefit, consult your physiotherapist. If you have a medical condition be sure to see your doctor first.


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