Why Bother Stretching?

Posted on April 12, 2010 by

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– Erin Sabin (bodyforge@yahoo.com)

I love my workouts and can always find time to fit in my exercise whether it is a day in the weight room or some form of cardio.  The aspect of my workout that is the most challenging is not a leg day in the gym or my 3rd H.I.T. in a rotation cycle.  The difficulty for me is fitting in 10 or 15 extra minutes at the end of it all to stretch out my muscles.
As a GT coach and personal trainer, deep down I know better and when working with clients I ALWAYS stress the importance of stretching.  So, as a form of personal motivation, I decided to do a bit of research and remind myself of some of the reasons for maintaining a regular stretching routine.  Here are a few key points, just in case I am not the only one changing my shoes before stretching out my muscles.
*None of us are created totally symmetrical.  Our lack of symmetry naturally leads to muscular imbalances and we favor one side of the body over another.  Regular stretching serves to lengthen tight, overused muscles and strengthen the underused muscles.  Working to balance our muscles can help to alleviate general aches and pains.
*Flexible muscles are less prone to injury; regular stretching allows us to utilize the full range of motion in our joints which will allow for greater coordination and lead to a decreased risk of injury.  A flexible joint also requires less energy to move and therefore is more energy efficient overall.  It is possible that improving the range of motion in your joints will also slow the degeneration process.
*Flexible muscles recover quicker than tight muscles and stretching can help speed the recovery process by increasing blood flow to the muscles.  Circulation throughout the entire body will also be increased.
*Stretching muscles that are tight helps to relieve tension and stress.  Routinely stretched muscles hold less tension, leaving you to feel less stressed.
*Stretching will help to improve posture. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest will help keep your back in proper alignment leading to an improvement in posture.   Stretching your hamstrings and hip flexors will also relieve pressure from your lumbar spine and decrease the chance of low-back pain.
These points really just hit the tip of the iceberg.  The bottom line is that a regular stretching routine should be an integral part of every exercise program.  The bare minimum is 10 to 15 minutes at the end of a workout and ideally 20 minutes of stretching or more should be completed on a daily basis.   It is most beneficial to hold a stretch for at least 20 seconds.  Do not bounce in a stretch and do not stretch muscles that have not been warmed up!  Have fun and when planning your workouts, don’t forget the time to stretch.  Not only is it imperative for your muscles, it is a great opportunity to wind down and bask in the post workout high!