Do you stretch before your workout? Or before the big game? Perhaps it is something that you do every morning. Or never at all. You may think that it is unnecessary and boring, however proper stretching should be integrated into your routine. Be warned, though, as improper stretching can lead to injury.
Experts vary in their opinions on stretching and the best thing is always to do your own research and to speak with your doctor. Most agree that proper stretching will increase your flexibility and therefore will improve your performance. It can also help decrease the chances of being hurt.
Stretching increases flexibility and decreases the possibility of injury by allowing your joints to move in their full range of motion. If the joint does not get proper movement, the possibility of getting tendinitis or arthritis in that specific joint is increased. If, however, you stretch and allow it movement, that joint has a reduced chance of suffering.
Another benefit is an increase in blood flow to the muscle. This is important because as you exercise, muscles release several byproducts (carbon dioxide, adenosine and hydrogen ions) and this increased blood flow allows the body to get rid of these byproducts. It delivers more oxygenated blood to the muscles.
Stretching safely is very important to prevent injury. Use these tips to aid you:
• Do not stretch cold muscles. It is actually a bad thing to stretch before working out. Instead, warm up with a light walk or jog for 10 minutes, then stretch. You should also stretch AFTER the workout as well when all your muscles are warm. Some research shows that you should not stretch before an intense activity, such as a race or event, as it proves that you actually have decreased performance.
• Focus on specific muscle groups, especially ones that you plan to workout harder in your exercise. And don’t forget to stretch both sides evenly.
• Don’t bounce as you stretch. That can actually causes small tears in the muscle, which leaves scar tissue and after it heals, can make the muscle even tighter and less flexible. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat more than once.
• Do not allow pain. If it hurts, it’s too much and you need to back off. You have a higher risk of hurting yourself if you push the stretch too far. A little uncomfort or tension is normal.
• Stretch regularly. Although time-consuming, it’s best to do it 2 or 3 times a week or you risk losing the benefits that it provides.
• Bring movement into your stretching, such as tai chi. You can also do the movement of your exercise slowly during your stretch to help those specific muscles.
If you have a previous injury or chronic condition, make sure that you find out the best way to stretch to avoid further injury or overuse. Stretching does not guarantee against injury but it can help.
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References: www.mayoclinic.com, health.howstuffworks.com