The benefits of stretching

Posted by on September 7, 2008 at 10:21 am

The Stretching Debate

Is Stretching Really Good For You?

It has been a common belief amongst athletes that stretching before strenuous physical activity prevents injury. However, researchers are now finding contrary evidence that stretching before exercise may actually do more harm than good. While it is true that stretching “cold” muscles can cause strain on muscle fibers, overall flexibility is undeniably an important part of overall fitness. Therefore, when researchers state that stretching does not prevent injury, they are not presenting an accurate and unbiased picture. If you stretch once in a blue moon or for a few seconds before your workout, you really won’t receive much benefit. If you don’t stretch consistently and correctly, it is certainly not going to do you much good on the athletic field, in the gym or in your everyday life.

Stretching and Flexibility

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion available in a joint, such as a hip joint or in a series of joints such as the spine. Flexibility also involves the range of motion achieved by individual muscles and groups of muscles. What does this mean in everyday terms? It translates into your ability to scratch between your shoulder blades, pick up a bag of groceries without straining your hamstring or taking a step class without your calves cramping up.

Most people stretch incorrectly. To achieve proper alignment and maximum benefit from a flexibility program, it is advisable to consult with a fitness professional or with a physical therapist (particular if you suffer from chronic injuries or pain.)

Many people perform what is known as ballistic stretching or bouncing around when you stretch. This type of stretching can be detrimental, as muscles and joints need time to relax into a position. Bouncing around and performing jerky movements can actually cause injury and, defeating the purpose of stretching in the first place. When you stretch and bounce, your muscles can contract suddenly and painfully, causing significant harm. However, this is not to say that stretching and movement cannot be combined. Performing controlled movements that gradually extend your range of motion can positively impact flexibility. This type of stretching is known as dynamic stretching.

Static stretching is another type of stretching that involves holding a position with one part of your body while using another part of your body for stability. For example, bracing your arms against the wall and extending your calf is an example of static stretching. Basically, you are holding a certain position for a length of time until the muscle gradually relaxes.

Make a Commitment to Stretching

An integrated flexibility program incorporating dynamic, static and other types of stretching can certainly impact your overall fitness level and general well being. However, as with aerobic exercise, don’t expect to see immediate results. One session on the treadmill doesn’t turn you into professional athlete. Likewise, a few hastily performed stretches on the athletic field really won’t impact your flexibility or prevent injury. Consistency is the key to getting real benefit from stretching.

Having greater flexibility and range of motion can not only improve your fitness level, but also your overall quality of life. Better flexibility means better movement at the gym, at home, at work and in every aspect of your daily routine.

by Andrea Pellettiere



One Response to “The benefits of stretching”

  1. Christine Workout Says:
    September 16th, 2008 at 3:20 pm

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