BENEFITS OF STRETCHING:
- Regular stretching is a powerful part of any exercise
- Stretching increases flexibility. Flexible muscles can
improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie
your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring.
- Stretching improves range of motion of your joints. Good
range of motion keeps you in better balance, which will help keep you mobile
and less prone to injury from falls — especially as you age.
- Stretching improves circulation.-increasing blood flow to
your muscles. Improved circulation can speed recovery after muscle injuries.
- Stretching promotes better posture. Frequent stretching
keeps your muscles from getting tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture
and minimize aches and pains.
- Stretching can relieve stress. Stretching relaxes the tense
muscles that often accompany stress.
- Stretching may help prevent injury. Preparing your muscles
and joints for activity can protect you from injury, especially if your muscles
or joints are tight.
HOW TO STRETCH:
- Target major muscle groups. When you're stretching, focus on
your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles
and joints that you routinely use at work or play.
- Warm up first. Stretching muscles when they're cold
increases your risk of injury, including pulled muscles. Warm up by walking
while gently pumping your arms, or do a favorite exercise at low intensity for
five minutes. Better yet, stretch after you exercise — when your muscles are
warm and more receptive to stretching.
- One caveat: If you plan to stretch only after your workout,
increase the intensity of the activity more slowly than you would if you had
stretched your muscles before exercising.
- Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. It takes time to
lengthen tissues safely. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds — and up
to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle or problem area. That can seem like a
long time, so keep an eye on the clock or your watch. Then repeat the stretch
on the other side. For most muscle groups, a single stretch is often enough if
you hold it long enough.
- Don't bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears
in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which
tightens the muscle even further — making you less flexible and more prone to
- Focus on a pain-free stretch. Expect to feel tension while
you're stretching. If it hurts, you've gone too far. Back off to the point
where you don't feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
- Relax and breathe freely. Don't hold your breath while
- How often to stretch is up to you. As a general rule,
stretch whenever you exercise. If you don't exercise regularly, you might want
to stretch at least three times a week to maintain flexibility. If you have a
problem area, such as tightness in the back of your leg, you might want to
stretch every day or even twice a day.
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