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woman stretching, lunging

   Stretching is an important part of exercising, however most people forget to do it. Stretching is important because it improves flexibility, posture, and muscle balance, decreases the chance of injury, increases blood supply to muscles and reduces muscle soreness. Stretching also boosts the output of muscles during exercise.  Therefore stretching should be a vital part of everyone’s workout.

1. Stretching increases flexibility.  By stretching you are decreasing the chance of a muscle injury. Stretch before working out to warm up the muscles, and stretch after a workout to avoid injury, increase flexibility and decrease muscle soreness.

2. While stretching it is important to hold your position. When stretching to warm up, you can hold your position for 20 seconds for an adequate stretch. However, if you hold the position for 60 seconds or longer you will develop your body’s flexibility. Also recommended is to hold stretches for  1-3 sets of 60 seconds each.

3. Some people don’t like to stretch and instead of stretching properly they go from the stretch position to the relaxed position and back and forth. This is called bouncing and allows momentum to propel the body rather than stretching and flexing the muscles. Proper stretching holds the position for several seconds and then slowly returns to the relaxed position. This motion is repeated several repetitions. Bouncing can cause strain or injury to the muscles and joints.

4. Start out will simple stretches to warm up the muscles. When muscles are cold they don’t like to move in certain ways and they have less flexibility. If you start with the simplest stretches, then build up to the harder stetches, its more likely your muscles will be flexible enough once you get to the harder exercises that you won’t have any problems with them. Where as it would have been harder to do those stretches if you had started with them.

5. It is important to warm up all the muscles groups. If you leave out one area its more likely that that muscle group will be injured. An easy way to make sure you warm up all muscles groups is to start at your head, stretching the neck, shoulders, arms, chest and then continue all the way down the body until you get to your feet (or you can start at the feet and go to the head, either way works). Most people will only stretch from the knees to the chest leaving out the neck.

6. Stretching increases flexibility which increases the range of motion for joint mobility. By continually stretching on a daily basis you will be constantly increasing your strength and flexibility. It is also a good way to keep your blood flow going throughout the day which helps your circulatory system.

7. A lot of peoples are eyes are bigger than their capabilities. Just because we see someone else doing something we think we can do it too. Well, its not always the case and if you don’t know for sure that you can do it, I wouldn’t suggest trying. This is a sure firer way of hurting yourself. Always increase your capabilities over time. Listen to what your body is telling you. Pain is a way of your body telling you there is something wrong. So when you start feeling pain, then you know it is time to stop or back off a little. Remember there is a difference between pain and a good stretch.

8. Rest between sets allows the muscle recovery time. This will improve your endurance. Occasionally people, especially men think that resting is “girlie or for whimps” but what they don’t realize is that resting actually helps the muscles. What they don’t know is that the muscle grows during the period of rest and not when you are working out the muscle. Therefore it is more important to rest in between sets, than to look “cool” if you don’t rest.

9. Aerobic exercise is good for the heart. Aerobic exercises use oxygen as fuel and improve the oxygen intake and utilization throughout the body. Aerobic exercise has many levels including beginner, moderate or expert. Aerobic exercises include running, swimming, or even jump roping.
10. Many people use music to get through their workouts. Music can be an integral part of a workout. Depending upon what type of muscle you listen to, you can use it to increase your intensity or workout for longer periods of time. Put a group of songs together that will last throughout your workout. Use mp3 players, or Ipods for personal use to avoid bothering anyone around you.

   Stretching is a very important aspect of health, which most often than not gets left undone. Stretching can be done anytime of day, in almost any setting. Remember these important guidelines when stretching.