We’ve all been there before. You just finished a hard workout at the gym and you’re ready to head home. But before you do that, you pause to consider taking the time to stretch. It seems pointless, but you know you should do it. Instead, you opt to head home and stretch there, which you know you’ll never end up doing.
Stretching is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. Stretching after your workout should be just as important as getting in a workout. Stretching can not only lessen those aches and pains, but it can also help out your posture as well.
Why You Should Stretch
Without stretching, the muscles will become tight and short. By stretching after a workout, or daily, it helps to keep those muscles strong and flexible, which can then reduce your risk for joint pains, muscle damage and strains. It’s important to stretch your calves, hamstrings and hip flexors, as well as other lower extremities. When you work out, like lift weights, your muscle length tightens, which in turn can make your feel body feel sore. By stretching, you will feel less tense overall.
It’s important to know that stretching the muscles before you work out can actually cause more damage to them, because the muscles aren’t as prepared. Get the blood flowing in that area first with some light activity, and then follow through with stretching after an aerobic or weight-training workout.
Be Smart About Stretching
Hold your stretches for 30 seconds, do not bounce while you stretch either. Remember that it’s good to feel tension, but if you feel pain do not press further into it. Breathe your way through your stretches, and modify them if you need too or put padding under your knees.
If you regularly carry a purse or backpack, this can cause your back muscles to tighten up. Stretching will help to alleviate the tightness as well as help you feel overall balanced.
This article was adapted from Harvard Health Publishing and Shape. Read the full story here and here.
If you have any questions about stretching please contact Campbell Clinic to meet with a physician.