So, it is time to hit the gym, right? You pound out a few miles on the treadmill. You weight lift your way through a series of exercises. For most, this is a typical gym routine, however, stretching often gets overlooked. As you age, your muscles begin to tighten and range of motion in the joints can be minimized. Not only can this put a damper on an active lifestyle, but it can also decrease your day-to-day quality of life. A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and make daily living activities easier.
Muscles contract and flex throughout cardiovascular and weight-training exercises, however, they do not place the muscle in a state of continual lengthening. This is exactly why stretching is vital to any wellness program. What else does stretching do for you and your body?
- Reduced muscle tension
- Increased range of movement in the joints
- Enhanced muscular coordination
- Increased circulation of the blood to various parts of the body
- Increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation)
One of the greatest benefits of stretching is that you’re able to increase your range of motion, which means your limbs and joints can move further before an injury occurs. Post-exercise stretching can also aid in workout recovery, decrease muscle soreness, and ensure that your muscles and tendons are in good working order. The more conditioned your muscles and tendons are, the better they can handle the rigors of sport and exercise, and the less likely that they’ll become injured.
There are a few things to remember when performing any stretching routine:
- Target major muscle groups such (chest, back, legs, calves, etc)Stretch after you exercise, when your muscles are warm and more receptive to stretching
- Pace yourself and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, and repeating 3 or 4 times
- Don’t bounce
- Focus on a pain-free stretch where you feel tension in the muscle, but not pain
- Relax and breathe freely
Stretching comes naturally to all of us. We all stretch unconsciously because it feels good! A consistent stretching program will produce large gains in flexibility and joint movement. Be kind to your muscles and they will be kind to you!