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For a lot of us, stretching just isn’t a priority. And I get that. If you’re a gym person, you probably want to get in, get sweaty and get out. If you take fitness classes then you may have noticed that a lot of instructors skip stretching all together. (Some don’t believe it’s necessary, some expect that you’ll do it on your own).
In the fitness community, stretching has become somewhat of a controversial subject. When I was studying for my Personal Training & Sports Medicine certification, I realized that opinions of Fitness Experts were all over the board. So, I’ve made an effort to study and research the whole stretching she-bang for the past few years.
Here’s what I’ve learned: stretching is key – especially for those of us who spend a good portion of the day sitting. However, old school stretching before exercise is not of paramount importance and doesn’t necessarily improve athletic importance.
Personally, I love my weekly yoga class as a way to work in stretching. But I’m an intermittent yogi. When I can’t get to class, I have to make an effort to carve out stretch time or I feel it. I recently learned the hard way when I woke up feeling like a 90 year-old lady lacking full range of motion in my neck, complaining of creaky joints, after a week without stretch time.
You definitely don’t have to practice yoga to reap stretching benefits! Do what you’re able on your own time. If you aren’t a regular stretcher, I urge you to add just 5-10 minutes into your routine 2-3 times per week. It’s easy to get it in: after waking in the AM, as a mid-day break or right before bed – your bod will thank you.
Still not convinced?
Here’s 6 Reasons You Need to Stretch:
- Improve Flexibility and Range of Motion. Fact: If you don’t work at flexibility, you lose it. Ever try bending over to touch your toes and been alarmed at how tough it was to reach down? That’s a tell-tale sign you haven’t been incorporating consistent stretching into your routine. Flexibility is important for healthy muscles and joints. Stretching helps increase range of motion which in turn helps you perform exercises more effectively. If you’re putting in hard work at the gym, flexibility will help you get more bang for your buck.
- Decrease Injury Risk. Active dynamic stretching is best before a workout. Active dynamic stretching is moving in a way that mimics the exercise you’re about to perform – as opposed to static stretching where you hold the stretch for a period of time. Fitness experts used to think that static stretching was the way to go but popular opinion has changed in recent years. It’s best not to do static stretches cold, saving them post-workout or a quick 5 minute warm-up.
- Helps Correct Posture. Many of us spend our days hunched at the computer or sitting in a desk, only getting up for food or bathroom breaks. Your body in the same position for an extended period of time leads to muscle imbalances and tightness. It’s great to be a kick a** workaholic but you don’t need poor posture. Taking frequent stretching breaks can make a world of difference.
- Mental Break. Flexibility and stretching exercises provide a powerful (but often underestimated) mental boost. Even just 5 minutes of stretching can help clear your mind and improve focus. The body is smart – when we’re tense, our muscles tighten. Stretching will combat both your stress and tightness.
- Increased Circulation. The jury is still out on whether stretching really helps prevent muscle soreness, but we can say that it helps improve circulation. Stretching increases the blood flow and supply of nutrients to muscles and cartilage. Good circulation is especially important during the cold winter months.
- Decreases the Risk of Low Back Pain. Roughly 80% of the population experiences lower back pain at some point in their lives, and it can be brutal. Stretching is clutch for a healthy back. Check out these easy exercises for the back to reduce pain.
Okay, off to stretch! (Seriously, I’ve been sitting at this computer too long!)
Image via Papercrownsblog.com