Stretching Your Way to Health

Does stretching really help prevent injuries? How often should you stretch? The short answers are yes and daily. Read on to find out how to stretch properly

Credit: lululemon athletica

Proper stretching feels good and can prevent injuries

Stretching is like the middle child of fitness, it often gets forgotten in between strength training and cardio workouts.

Even as a trainer who should know better, there was a time when I’d neglect stretching. This resulted in several overuse injuries sidelining me from exercising, which is not a good thing. I’ve always had a lot of energy, and if I don’t expend it I get cranky.  

And there’s also the fact that as we get older all the years of abusing our bodies catches up to us and we begin to tighten up. Anyone over 35 knows what I mean. Keeping your joints mobile and your muscles supple becomes increasingly important as you age.

By abuse I don’t just mean excessive exercise or sports. Too much sitting and inactivity is just as abusive to your body because your posture worsens and your muscles stay in a shortened position. Headaches, backaches, knee pain, butt pain…all become more common if we don’t take the time to mobilize our joints and muscles.

When to Stretch

Have I convinced you that stretching is vital to good health? Good. Now let’s clear up what type of stretching to do and when.

Static stretching is the type of stretching most people are familiar with. Remember back in high school phys. ed. class when the teacher got you to stretch your thighs by pulling your heel to your butt? That’s a basic static stretch, where you passively hold a position for 20 seconds or longer. Static stretching is best done after you exercise.

The other major form of stretching is dynamic stretching. As the name implies, this involves movement. You perform a controlled motion to create a stretch in the muscle. This is best done before you exercise to prepare the muscles and joints to workout.

Want an example? Watch my video which shows you how to do a terrific dynamic hamstring stretch. Google “dynamic stretches” to find other good videos to show you how to do more dynamic stretches.

Stretching Tips

Other points to keep in mind:

  • You need to be doing some sort of stretching every day, especially if you’re in the over 35 crowd
  • It doesn’t have to take long; five to 10 minutes is all
  • Pick a few stretches and be consistent in doing them
  • Don’t ever push to a point of pain. A mild pulling sensation is enough. Emphasis on “mild”
  • Always move in and out of stretches with control