Stretching both before and after exercise is key to any fitness program. Stretching prior to exercise warms up your body making it less prone to accidents and injuries. Stretching exercises increase joint and muscle flexibility making for a better workout. During the warm-up period, stretches should be held between 15 and 30 seconds.
Stretching following exercise relieves muscle tightness, improves flexibility and cools down the body. After a workout, your body will be able to stretch even further than it did prior to your exercise program. During the cool-down period, stretches should be held between 30 seconds and one minute. It is during these longer stretches that flexibility increases the most.
It is important to breathe normally as you stretch and avoid holding your breath. Concentrate on the stretch itself and on your breathing, relaxing the rest of your body. A mild tension should be felt but no discomfort. Avoid bouncing.
When standing during a stretching exercise, you can hold onto a steady object such as a chair to maintain balance and proper posture. If you prefer not to hold onto anything, keeping your eyes focused on a point of interest such as a painting will help to maintain the proper balance and posture.
One of the great things about stretching is that it can be done anywhere and anytime. Stretching exercises are not limited to exercising alone. They can be done in any environment whether working, shopping or going about your daily routine.
Here are some of the benefits of stretching exercises:
o They are calming and relaxing
o Provides a sense of peace and well-being
o Lengthens your muscles
o Helps to prevent accidents and injuries
o Improves tissue flexibility and elasticity
o Increases blood flow
o Makes muscles more supple
o Helps with balance and coordination
o Improves range of motion
o Improves circulation
o Improves posture
o Reduces stress
Stretching both before and after your fitness program is important in maintaining a healthy body. Stretching at other times of the day is a great way to limber up, relax and reduce stress. For peak fitness, be sure to include stretching in your daily routine.