Are You Stretching Enough? Chances Are, You’re Not

Ah, stretching—it’s one of those wellness habits that a lot of people tend to forget about. After doing cardio and strength training, it’s easy to think of your workout as being done. But it turns out stretching is super important. Spending five to 10 minutes stretching every day can increase your flexibility (all of a sudden you can reach your toes!), boost blood flow to muscles and help reduce your risk for injuries.

Here are some things to keep in mind to help you get the most out of your stretching:

  • Stretch AFTER a workout, not before: Research shows that it’s best to do your stretching after your workout instead of using it as your warm-up. Stretching before you exercise can actually affect your performance, since it loosens muscles and impacts how well they retain strength. Instead of stretching, warm up your muscles with five to 10 minutes of light activity like biking, jumping rope or jogging.
  • Push yourself the right amount: When stretching, you want to feel tension in your muscles but you don’t want to feel pain. Muscle pain can indicate injury to the muscle or tissue damage. If you start feeling pain when you stretch, ease it up. And if the pain doesn’t cease, stop stretching and talk to your doctor.
  • Slow and steady wins the race: Bouncing during your stretch, also known as ballistic stretching, is not good because it pushes muscles past their normal range of motion. Over-stretching can lead to tissue tears and loss of muscle strength, increasing your risk for a sports-related injury. Instead, hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and breathe through each stress, rest, then repeat. And don’t forget to stretch each side equally!

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