If you’ve ever said ” Oh, my aching (insert muscle here) then chances are you need a good stretch. The thing with stretching is that we all know we’re supposed to do it but many of us don’t. When we do make attempts at stretching it’s usually a perfunctory pull here and there before and after exercise. Sorry but that’s not gonna cut it if you really want all the benefits of the stretch:
Stress Relief: Doesn’t it feel really good when you do stretch? That’s because it’s good for you! When you stretch you relieve the accumulated tension in your joints and muscles that are caused by stress and exercise. Less tension = less stress
Increased range of motion: Ever see those guys in the gym who are so muscled and tight that they can’t even fully extend their arms? Their elbow ligaments have basically shortened up due to only working in a specific range of motion for a bicep curl. The same could happen to you if you continuously stand, sit, walk and reach only so far. Use stretching to improve the range of motion around your joints i.e. your arm swinging around in a making a full circle. Improved ROM = improved balance and less injuries.
Improved circulation: When the muscles surrounding your veins are tight then your veins are tight too. Stretching unblocks the constriction and increases blood flow to the area. This is especially useful after an injury.
So how long should you stretch? Well, the general consensus is that a stretch should be held for a minimum of ten seconds for it to be effective. I say that a little more wouldn’t hurt so try for 15-25 seconds per stretch. According to this Pub Med review, stretching must regularly be performed in a full range of motion for you to reap the benefits.
Does it matter if you stretch before or after exercise? not really and unfortunately, stretching isn’t guaranteed to prevent soreness from exercise. One thing is for sure, warming up before you stretch is crucial in preventing injuries.