Physical activity is one of the keys to a long and healthy life. The best way to work out is to exercise in a balanced way. A big part of that is stretching.
Is it possible to overdo stretching? Yes. As always, the dose is in the poison. But some stretching is a must for every workout you do. Stretching is an effective warm-up, cooldown, and tool to improve flexibility.
When Is the Best Time to Stretch?
Lots of people stretch before starting their workout. However, there’s no evidence to show that static stretching prior to exercise helps prevent injury. In fact, some research shows that it weakens the muscles. Dynamic stretching, like arm circles, is a great warmup.
Exceptions to the static stretching rule are necessary for some activities. If you’re a cheerleader or ballet dancer, it’s probably a must for you. Static stretching is important for range of motion.
Static stretching works best when the muscles are already warm. It’s best done post-workout. Modified static stretching as a workout, as in yoga, is also really effective.
Which Stretches Matter Most?
Stretching big muscle groups is a one approach. Another strategy is to stretch the muscles you used the most. For example, runners can be very tight in their hips. Stretching the hip flexors after a run can help improve range of motion.
An important thing to keep in mind is that some muscle groups help balance others. For example, people with plantar fasciitis often benefit from calf stretches. Tight calf muscles mean there’s less range of motion in the ankle. This causes extra strain on the fascia. Stretching the calves can help eliminate pain in the arches.
Other great stretches for active people include child’s pose. This relaxes the lower back, while stretching the spine. A hamstring stretch can also provide lots of benefits. Remember, the hamstrings and quads help balance each other, too.
The Importance of Flexibility
Stretching can help you maintain good range of motion at any age. Incorporating stretching in your workout routine can help you avoid injury. This means saved time and money, not to mention better comfort.