One of the most important things to do on a regular basis is stretching. Everyone has been told to do it, probably even by your own voice in your head. I can count a number of times I have heard someone say, “I should probably be stretching more.” How many of us stretch as often as they should be? Unfortunately, not that many of us. I am guilty of it myself! Implementing routine stretching into your life has great benefits and is not only important for athletes, but for everyone no matter what age. Noncompliance with stretching or warming up prior to exercise can lead to increased vulnerability to muscle tightness and pain. There are multiple benefits from performing a stretching routine/warmup on a regular basis, such as:
1. Reducing risk of injury: This is very important especially for athletes. When you skip your warmup before playing a game, you are more susceptible to muscle cramps, sprains, and other injuries.
2. Decreasing muscle tightness: The more pliable your muscles are, the more range of motion you will have in your joints.
3. Increasing flexibility and joint range of motion: By performing a daily stretching routine, you can help prevent joint issues that may occur in old age.
4. Improved circulation: Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles which nourishes the tissues and shortens recovery time.
5. Stress relief: Routine stretching can help reduce overall pain, help the body to relax, and overall can improve your mental health.
It is important to understand different types of stretches you can do. Stretching can be broken up into two basic categories, static and dynamic. Static stretching tends to be the most practiced method whereas dynamic stretching is usually performed in athletic training programs. Either type of stretch is beneficial and will warm up the muscles and improve overall flexibility. I would recommend dynamic stretching as an appropriate warm up for an athlete prior to practicing or playing a game vs static. The two types of stretching can be defined as the following:
Static stretching: This involves stretching a specific muscle to it’s furthest point (until you feel a stretch) and holding it for at least 20-30 seconds. This is typically repeated about 3-5 times.
Dynamic stretching: This involves performing active movements involving a muscle group that stretches the muscles to their full range of motion. These stretches often simulate functional movements that prepares the body for exercise.
Now, I know routine stretching can be time consuming, and may feel unrealistic to perform daily, but even starting out slow and adding it to your week around 2-3 times can be very beneficial to your overall health. There are many good resources online and even apps you can get for free if you are unsure where to begin!