Static Stretching, How to and Why?
Static stretching should be an equally important part of your daily fitness routine.
There is a lot to be said for daily stretching. As far back and the Egyptians and later adopted and cultivated by the Chinese and other eastern cultures, stretching as been a major component of health for centuries. For this article I will spare going into depth about the history and origins of stretching, rather focusing on the greatest benefits of the practice.
Even for those of us who do not participate in athletics or physical activity, daily stretching is of the utmost importance.
For the physically active, it can mean the difference of progressing to the next level or wavering in your athletic achievements. It also goes without saying, stretching has a tremendous affects on ones mental and emotional state equally.
Benefits of Stretching
Stretching can have a wide range of health befits on the human body.
Flexibility is the primary benefit attained from daily stretching. The more you stretch the more available ROM (rang of motion) you have. The more available ROM you have, the more freely your body can move and perform. Being able to move with greater freedom allows for better physical performance and overall muscle and joint health.
Injury Prevention is a close second when it comes to stretching. Stretching prepares the muscle and joints for extreme movements, which in turn helps to reduce the likelihood of severe injury.
Tension reduction can be elicited by daily stretching. Stress can manifest in the muscles over time due to work related stress or brought on by physical stress ie. exercise. So in this case, stretching can be utilized as a way to manage stress and relieve tension and promote muscle relaxation.
Studies have shown that pre-workout static stretching can be harmful. In fact, stretching should never be performed as a warm-up. Instead, you should perform dynamic activities, which includes movement that increases the blood flow to all of the major muscle groups prior to exercises. This primes the muscles in preparation for exercises.
The recommended hold time for post-workout stretching is as follows. If you are under the age of 40, you should hold your stretches for 30 seconds. If you are 40 years of age or older, your stretch hold time should be 60 seconds or greater. The point being is that as we get older, more time should be spent on stretching for better health, maintaining your overall mobility and muscle function.
Stretching should be performed at least 2-3 days per week for a minimum of 10 minutes. If you participate in daily/routine athletics, daily stretching should be incorporated. In order to increased and maintain your flexibility as well as mobility, good habits must be formulated with a regular weekly schedule of stretching. Proper technique is equally important to attain the greatest benefits and to prevent injury while stretching.
In best practice, it must be pointed out that theses are introductory guidelines to stretching. There are a myriad of schools of thought and approaches to stretching. Regardless, if you are a seasoned athlete or just a newbie to fitness, it is important that you keep to a regular routine in order to attain the desired benefits. Finding a good Yoga class is an easy way to familiarize yourself with your body and the overall benefits of stretching.
Reference: Mayo Clinic