Everyone accepts that stretching is important no matter if you workout or not. But honestly, how often do you do it? If you are a typical person then more than likely you only stretch either right before or right after working out. But that is not nearly enough.
Why You Should Stretch
Stretching is good for your body for numerous reasons and it is hard to say which the best is.
- First and foremost is to increase flexibility. As we get older, typically we lose flexibility rather rapidly. But we need it to do so many mundane things from reaching down to pick something up or even to twist your neck when driving to see your blind spot. As you get older and flexibility in multiple areas decreases you end up losing a lot of your range of motion for even the simplest things.
- Injury prevention is another great reason to stretch. Tighter muscles are more prone to being pulled or suffering from spasms and tightness. Also loosening muscles and tendons up helps prevent sudden shock injuries that can occur from abrupt movements.
- Recovery from workouts is also a benefit of stretching. Sore muscles will naturally tighten up as fibers recover. Stretching helps increase blood flow and loosen the areas up.
- Relaxation is the final reason for stretching. When your body is loose it is relaxed. Tense and tight muscles can cause problems such as body aches and even headaches. Sometimes tension and stress lead to tense muscles but loose muscles can lead to relaxation.
So How Often Should You Stretch?
Ideally you should stretch your body three times a day, especially if you are over 30 years in age. A morning stretch helps work out the kinks developed over a long nights rest. It is a relaxing way to start the day and ease your body into what will be expected of it. After a shower is a great time for a quick 5-10 minute session when your body is warm and energized.
A lunchtime stretch is ideal for people to help release tension built up during the first half of the work day. Sitting in a chair at the office performing repetitive work or really in any environment is not natural for the body. Taking the time to loosen up again mid-day really helps the entire body.
Finally stretching right before bed is a great way to unwind before sleep. Many people who stretch before bed find it easier to fall asleep as the body is more relaxed and comfortable.
If you workout regularly a light pre-workout stretch and vigorous post-workout stretch are also recommended.
What Kind of Stretches?
It is best to do basic stretches that cover all of the muscles groups from your neck down to your calves. Stretches should be deep enough to feel the muscle stretching but not so hard that they hurt. Gently getting into position and holding a stretch for 15 to 20 seconds should be sufficient per muscle. You can vary the stretches and order to mix things up.
For people who hardly stretch, you will be rather amazed at how much better you will physically feel if you incorporate regular stretching into your daily routine. While at first people have a hard time committing the time (really only 15 minutes a day), the benefits of feeling relaxed and loose for the entire day is well worth it!