There is considerable variation in flexibility between individuals. You”ve seen contortionists that get their bodies into those clear cubes and then there is my husband who can barely touch his toes, and he is an athletic fit guy. And then there are variations within the same person flexible shoulders but inflexible hips. There are many good reasons to stretch.
Stretching increases flexibility and increased flexibility reduces risk of injury.
According to The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons the key to preventing injuries is to warm up and the best way to warm up is to do flexibility or stretching exercises. They recommend you should not feel pain when stretching, you should be relaxed and your breathing should be slow and even.
Other experts contend you should warm up before you stretch. Do a few minutes of light aerobic exercise than stretch everything out.
And then, there are a few studies out there that do not show any less risk of injury between groups who stretched before activity and those that did not stretch. The few studies that I have read that refute stretching for injury prevention are studies done using people in their early 20s or are in the full time athletic profession, those already in fantastic shape. This may not be true of all studies. Unfortunately I am not young or an athlete therefore I error on the side of less risk so I stretch. (We have all seen professional basketball players lying on the gym floor being stretched out by trainers before a game begins. I can”t imagine they don”t think this is beneficial for injury prevention).
So whether stretching may or may not help prevent injury, what exactly are other benefits to stretching and increasing your flexibility?
Stretching movements increase the length of your muscles and they increase the range of motion in your joints. Regular stretching can be an important way to maintain your body”s mobility and freedom of movement as you age.
Stretching will also improve your posture. And give many the relief they need from strained or chronically sore backs. (Back pain is a common complaint among American Adults).
Gentle stretching can also relax you both physically and mentally.
A good stretching routine should work each of the major muscle group 5 to 10 minutes.
Flexibility is a slow process. Therefore you must be persistent. I can remember my sister wanting to be a cheerleader. A requirement was you had to be able to do the splits. Every day she would attempt her splits and each day she would get a little closer and a little closer after about 6 weeks she could do the splits. Her persistence paid off.
So for increased mobility, larger range of motion, better posture, relief from back pain, and mental relaxation, let”s all add stretching to our weekly workout routine.