When most people think about conditioning their bodies via regular workouts, they usually think solely about cardiovascular activities and resistance training. While both of these are certainly beneficial when it comes to overall fitness, there is another part of an effective, results-producing workout that is often missing. That is stretching.
Part of what makes stretching so important is that, when conducted before you exercise, it helps loosen and elongate your muscles in preparation for the hard work they face ahead. And when you stretch at the conclusion of your workout, it helps work the tightness out of those same muscles, ultimately reducing the soreness you might ordinarily feel post-workout. Essentially then, these pre and post-exercise stretching sessions provide benefits such as a lower risk of injury and improved healing time after high intensity training.
Stretching also enhances your body’s flexibility as it makes the muscles and soft tissues not as stiff. This means that you’ll have an easier time performing exercises that require a lot of movement and/or movement which sends you in a multitude of different directions (such as football and hockey). Everyday activities like reaching down to pick something up or getting something from hard to reach places in your closets and cupboards becomes easier as well since your range of motion is increased.
To get the most from your stretching exercises, you’ll want to do them for about five minutes prior to working out and again for 5 to 10 minutes once your session is complete. For best results, go into the stretch slowly, stopping once you can feel the tension, and holding the stretch anywhere from 8 to 15 seconds to elongate your muscles. Also, be sure to stretch the muscles you’ll be using or have used in your exercise session as those are the ones that will benefit the most.