August 5, 2014( Comments: 0 )

Why Stretch

Stretching exercises encourage lengthening of your muscles and their associated tendons, and oppose the shortening and tightening of muscles that can occur immediately after vigorous exercise, and as a product of ageing and inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle that involves long periods of sitting or driving can cause muscles to shorten and tighten which can lead to pressure on nerves and pain.
By its effect of lengthening muscles, stretching promotes flexibility, that is, the ability to have a full range of motion about your joints. Studies comparing a warm-up that includes static stretching with a warm-up that does not include static stretching have shown that, although pre-exercise static stretching does improve flexibility, it does not appear to prevent injury during exercise.

Exercises for flexibility are an integral part of a balanced exercise programme that also includes:

– exercise to increase or maintain muscular strength (e.g. a strength training routine using hand-weights); 

– exercise to increase or maintain aerobic capacity (e.g. brisk walking, running, swimming); 

– a healthy diet; and 

– plenty of rest. 

Not taking time to stretch can mean losing the ability to move freely and fully to compete in your chosen sport or to perform the activities that are basic to your daily needs.
When to stretch

Important: stretch only when your muscles are warm, as cold muscles are more likely to tear.

Stretching before and after exercise

A light static stretching routine (stretching a muscle and holding it in this position without discomfort for 10-30 seconds) can be performed at the end of a warm-up, before undertaking more vigorous activity. Be sure to stretch each of the muscle groups you will be using in your chosen activity 2 to 3 times.

An ideal time to do most of your static stretching is after exercise, that is, immediately after your post-exercise cool-down. Allow around 5 to 10 minutes to stretch after exercise, and concentrate on the muscles that you have just exercised. Use the static stretches illustrated below as a guide. Stretching at this time helps restore your muscles to their resting length and prepare them for your next exercise session.

Dedicated stretching

Including a dedicated stretching routine (for 15 to 20 minutes and unrelated to an exercise session) in your exercise programme 2 or 3 times a week will be an additional help to maintaining your flexibility. For example, attending a yoga class weekly is an enjoyable way to contribute to the flexibility part of your fitness programme. Warming up for a dedicated stretching session might involve 2 to 3 minutes of jogging or doing your favourite exercise at low intensity for 5 minutes. Raising a light sweat will indicate warming of your muscle tissue.

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