Why and When to Stretch

Stretching – as important as it may be, most people neglect it or do not perform it correctly. Am I right? I’ll be the first to tell you that stretching has not always been a priority for me. Unfortunately, it took an injury for me to realize the importance of it and to start incorporating it into my daily workout routine.

If I told you that all it takes is for you to dedicate 10 minutes of your day to make vast improvements in your mind and body, would you do it? Studies conducted at the University of California, Davis show that 10 minutes of stretching a day is a enough time “to achieve the most benefits.” When you stretch matters. You NEVER want to stretch before warming up – you should do this after you have warmed up your muscles. When your body has not been warmed up, your muscles are not prepared and it can lead to injury. According to studies conducted by Harvard Medical School, by warming up, you are increasing the blood flow to your muscles and your tissues become more flexible. Due to this, you should warm up your muscles prior to beginning your stretching routine. Stick to a simple warm-up that is easy on your body, like walking on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes. Once your body and muscles are nice and warm, you can move onto stretching! Not only should you stretch after your warm-up, but also after your workout to aid the recovery process. If you start incorporating a daily stretching routine, the benefits that come from stretching are amazing – here are just a few:

Improved Mobility/Healthier Muscles & Joints

Studies have shown that when performed daily, stretching “protects our mobility and independence” and allows our muscles to be healthy, strong, and of course, flexible. Stretching improves range of motion and helps protect against “joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”

Improves Posture

Because stretching strengthens your muscles, proper alignment takes place, leading to an improvement in posture.

Decreased Likelihood of Injury, Less Soreness, Increased Energy

Stretching after your warm-up as well as after your workout increases the amount of blood flow throughout your body, there is also an increase in “nutrient supply to muscles.” Because the nutrients are being carried throughout your body, there is a reduction in soreness and “an improved sense of invigoration.

Calmer Mind, Released Tension, Increased Energy

Dedicating a part of your day to focusing on yourself and your body is a chance for you to wind down and give yourself a mental break. This will lead to a calmer mind. Carrying stress in your muscles is normal, especially when you feel overwhelmed or mentally stressed – “when feeling overwhelmed, muscles tighten acting as a defense strategy.” When you release tension from your muscles by stretching, you will likely feel less stressed.

Stretching is crucial before your workout (but after your warm-up) and after your workout in order to improve your performance, improve your recovery, decrease the risk of injury, and to feel better overall. A simple 5-minute stretch routine can be found on BuiltLean and can help you get started if you haven’t already. So, I challenge you to dedicate at least 10 minutes of your day to take care of your body and stretch it out. Let me know of your favorite stretches in the comments below and if you have noticed any difference when incorporating a stretching routine! Take care and safe stretching!

Image Source: Harvard Medical School

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