Stretching is a fantastic way to improve your flexibility and lower your chance of getting injured. Learn more about stretching and why you should add it into your weekly routine.
The Mayo Clinic says stretching – holding a muscle in an elongated position for 30 seconds or longer – can help improve your range of motion and decrease your risk of injury. But stretching cold muscles can do more harm than good. Here’s what you need to know.
- Don’t stretch cold muscles. Take a walk, a light jog, or a short bike ride before stretching. This should last between 5 and 10 minutes, then it will be safe to stretch. Or, stretch at the end of your workout when muscles are warm.
- If you’re going to participate in a race or other event, practice dynamic stretching. This is performing movements that are similar to what you’ll be doing. For example, runners can do leg lifts or walking lunges to warm up their muscles.
- Try to have equal flexibility on each side of your body and try not to compare yourself to others because everyone has a different level of flexibility.
- Focus on major muscles such as quadriceps (front thigh), hamstrings (back thigh), calves, hips, lower back, shoulders, and neck
- Don’t bounce. Hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds, and repeat on the opposite side.
- If you feel pain, you’ve stretched too far. Back off a little and continue to hold the stretch.
- Research gyms and yoga studios near you for a stretching class if you prefer to have guidance.
The Mayo Clinic recommends stretching two-to-three times a week to maintain your current level of mobility and flexibility. Here are some basic stretches to get you started.