At our physical therapy clinic, we notice an interesting trend with a lot of our active patients: they go to the gym regularly, but they largely neglect stretching and mobility work. Do you make time to go to the gym a few times per week? If so, you should certainly commend yourself for your efforts, but ask yourself this: how often do you stretch before and after a workout session?
We’re not sure why not stretching is so common among gym-goers. Maybe it’s because stretches don’t seem as “exciting” as an actual workout, and when you go to the gym you can be so eager to get moving that you just don’t think about stretching!
However, proper stretching before and after exercise has many proven health benefits and can improve your workout. For more information about the benefits of doing stretches and how you can incorporate it into your daily workout regime, talk to a physical therapist today. They can educate you about which types of stretching you should focus on and find out which areas of your body have a limited range of motion and flexibility.
In the meantime, keep reading to learn why stretching is so important for your body!
The importance of warming up
You may have heard that stretching “cold” muscles isn’t a good idea. This is true. Our bodies need to be adequately warmed up prior to stretching—otherwise our risk for injury and tissue damage increases. This doesn’t mean you should never stretch at all before a workout, however. A simple 5-minute warm-up such as light jogging, brisk walking, and arm circles and leg swings is usually sufficient activity to get your joints and tissues warmed up and prepared for mobility work.
For many folks, dynamic stretches are the most effective for pre-workout mobility. Meanwhile, they’ll save static stretches and foam rolling for after the workout. According to WebMD, “stretching a muscle to the full extent of your ability and holding it for 15 to 30 seconds is a static stretch, and there’s no harm in stretching that way as long you don’t stretch until it hurts. But studies suggest a dynamic stretch is just as effective, and sometimes better, especially before your workout!”
If you’re stuck wondering what kinds of stretches are best for you, don’t worry. Our physical therapy staff is happy to help you problem-solve and figure out the best routine for your body.
What stretching before and after a workout can do for your body
Below are five benefits of stretching before and after an exercise routine!
1. It helps prepare your body for exercise.
Dynamic stretching before a workout can help your muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and other tissues become loosened up and prepared for exercise. Pre-workout mobility also increases core body temperature and stimulates increased blood flow throughout the body so your tissues will have adequate amounts of oxygen.
Meanwhile, stretching after a workout helps you cool down appropriately and reduce tissue tightness and pain.
2. Gives you a better workout.
Since pre-workout mobility also prepares your body for exercise, it’ll also help you safely reach your desired workout intensity more quickly since you’ll be able to start a workout already warmed up and ready to go.
A personalized stretching routine that addresses your specific areas of postural imbalances and tightness can help you improve your range of motion. When you combine this with strength training and aerobic conditioning, you can expect to function more efficiently during your workouts and enjoy greater stamina, power, and speed.
3. Better health overall.
Doing stretches regularly has been shown to improve your blood pressure and heart rate as well as maximize your overall mobility, especially as you age. If you’re aiming to live for a really long time, do yourself a favor and get to stretching.
4. Stretching decreases the risk of sustaining a serious injury.
Some studies do show that stretching may reduce your risk of muscle strains, ligament sprains, joint damage, and other painful injuries common with sports and athletics. Beware though, stretching is not all you need to do in order to prevent yourself from getting hurt! Having proper form is vital to keeping yourself safe during workouts as well.
5. Stretching can relieve stress.
Are you feeling more stress than normal? Stretching regularly—especially when combined with deep breathing and mindfulness exercises—is a great way to ease mental stress and even reduce signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. The benefit of stretching to relieve stress is that you can do it any time of the day, even if you aren’t exercising! Try stretching when you wake up, before getting your day started, and see what a difference it makes.
Contact our clinic for more information!
Are you having trouble determining which kinds of stretching exercises you need to incorporate into your daily exercise routine? If you’d like to become more disciplined with a mobility routine and need some inspiration and education on the best mobility moves your body needs, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist today.