The importance of stretching cannot be overstated. Whether you’re a weight-lifter, runner, cyclist, once-a-week hoopster, or a treadmill trotter, stretching has many benefits. Still, flexibility is often an undervalued element of fitness.
While stretching won’t completely eliminate your post-workout aches and pains, it can help minimize the degree and frequency of soreness you experience when practiced regularly. Soreness is typically experienced at higher levels by exercise beginners, folks returning to a fitness regimen, and anyone making drastic changes to an exercise routine or significantly increasing the duration or intensity of an existing regime. Adding at least five minutes of post-workout stretching will reduce soreness length and severity noticeably.
There is no solid evidence that stretching directly prevents injury, but there is proof that increased flexibility gained from a regular stretching routine does help prevent activity-based injuries. Higher flexibility helps your joints move through their full range of motion; joints which regularly move through their full range of motion are less likely to be injured.
Static or Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretching is typically done before a workout, and should mimic the movements of the exercise being performed. This type of stretching can serve as a warm-up, and helps improve performance for a short time, compared to performing with cold muscles.
Static stretching of cold muscles is not recommended. Any pre-workout static stretching should be limited to less than 15 minutes, and should be preceded by a warm-up of some kind: walking, running, body-weight or other low-intensity exercises. This type of stretching better serves as a workout cool-down. As any yoga participant knows, stretching warm muscles can dramatically improve your flexibility.
It’s rare for someone to claim that they truly enjoy stretching. But it’s important to consider the numerous benefits of stretching before and/or after working out, and consider adding some stretches to your next workout.