Stretching not only prevents injury but it also relieves stress, increases circulation and promotes flexibility. Many people overlook stretching as being an important step in promoting a healthy body however it is a crucial component in injury management and postural alignment.
If joints are inflamed and/ or injured, you can be doing permanent damage to them by exercising further without being treated properly.
It is important to warm up the temperature of the muscles before exercise as the warmer the muscle; the more you are preventing a possible injury. Once you have warmed up, it is best to begin with some light exercise to ensure the body is prepared for high intensity exercise.
When warming down, you need to slow down the pace towards the end of vigorous activity to make it easy on your body to adjust to the change.
When you suddenly stop high intensity movement, the heart continues to pump blood out to the muscles to repay the oxygen debt. As the muscles are no longer contracting and assisting the return of blood to the heart, the process of slowing everything down takes time.
If you do not warm down, you may find you feel dizzy and faint. This is a result of the reduced blood supply to the brain as the blood accumulates in the legs during exercise. However, even if you don’t faint, recovery is still going to be uncomfortable as toxins gather in the muscles so the recuperation is still going to be timely.
Why do we stretch?
If you do not stretch, muscle will lose elasticity which will contribute to damaged muscle tissue. The benefits to stretching regularly far outweigh the time taken to actually do them. You must make time to put your health and body first.
- Preventing Injuries: stretching increases the distance a muscle can extend before muscle tears and damages the tendons.
- Improving Biomechanical Efficiency: short or tight muscle cannot extend through a full range of motion.
- Improving Sports Performance: An increase in ROM allows force to be exerted over a greater duration of time.
- Improving Coordination between Muscle Groups: Where variability exists in opposing muscle groups (e.g. hamstrings/ quadriceps) weakness about the joint can develop.
- Before any physical activity, whether intense or not, you must warm up all joints/ muscles in your body that will be used during the activity and ideally, the major muscle groups also.
- After you finish exercising, warm down the body so it can recover appropriately.
- If you find your muscles are sore after exercise, only use light stretches with a 10 second hold.
- Most of your stretches should be static.
Basic Stretches as seen above should:
- Be held for 5 – 10 seconds
- Rest for 5 – 10 seconds between each stretch
- Repeat each stretch twice
- Use an intensity level to the point that you can feel the stretch. Do not push your body.
- Stretch at least 2 – 3 times per week (more if you are exercising regularly) for 15 – 20 minutes each session to ensure the best results