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Of all the exercises and activities available, stretching is probably the most skipped. After all, stretching doesn't really burn many calories, like cardio, and it doesn't make you stronger, like strength training. Add to the fact that we often have a limited time to exercise, and many of us start to think - why waste time on stretching when I could get more cardio or lifting in?

The problem is that lack of flexibility can cause all kinds of problems, something you might suddenly become aware of, say, when you stretch to reach something on a high shelf and pull a muscle or when trying to reach behind your head to remove your cat, only to realize your arms won't go that far. Or maybe that second thing only happens to me.

The next time you're tempted to skip your stretch, think of all the things you might be missing out on like:

  • Better range of motion - If you can take your joints through a full range of motion, you'll be more balanced, more coordinated and less prone to hurting yourself - good news if you're klutzy, like me.
  • More flexibility - It's amazing how much flexibility we need each day, from bending over to tie our shoes to wrestling off tight, sweaty sports bras. It's these small tasks that often challenge our flexibility the most.
  • Injury prevention - Stretching before a workout doesn't really prevent injury, but being flexible overall can. A flexible muscle can absorb shock better and can handle movements that often lead to pulled muscles.
  • Relaxation - Stretching feels good in a way that cardio and strength training often don't. Taking a little time to slow down, relax and enjoy all your hard work helps you end your workout on a good note.

    What do you think of stretching? Do you make time for it every day or do you often skip it when you run out of time? Do you ever wonder if stretching really does anything for you? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts on stretching.

Flexibility Workouts

September 15, 2010 at 5:49 am
(1) kelly blake says:

I stretch everyday after my workout. Stretch for 20 minutes from head to toe, no matter what muscle what used that day. I even got my hubby addicted to stretching!

September 15, 2010 at 11:27 am
(2) Dan says:

I skip stretching, I’m afraid, unless “ab wheel rollouts” count. (In tha case, I also stretch after the workout.)

Recent research indicates that strength training might be superior to static stretching for overall flexibility.

Last June at WebMD it was reported:

“Our results suggest that full-range resistance training regimens can improve flexibility as well as, or perhaps better than, typical static stretching regimens,” says James R. Whitehead, EdD, of the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

“There’s an old notion that if you do resistance training, you have to stretch those muscles too,” Whitehead tells WebMD. “It’s a hangover to the myth that muscles lose flexibility as they get bigger.”

(We wouldn’t want to be working out with a hangover…)

Of course this is just a tentative result, and there are probably other studies that might contradict it, but it makes sense to me, based on my own experience, so I thought I’d mention it just as food for thought.

September 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm
(3) Laura says:

I LOVE stretching and wish I had MORE time to do it. I used to stretch for a good 20 minutes after long workouts, but that was before life before baby . . . My job now requires me to sit for long hours, and I find my back, shoulders, and hips get very tight and sore if I don’t take regular stretch breaks.

September 16, 2010 at 3:58 am
(4) Christophe Chateau says:

I stretch every day – as a dancer and a performer I love stretching and am always telling our artistes to make sure they are stretched and warm before any rehearsal or performance. I enjoy the feeling it gives me as well as the physical benefits mentioned above. :)

September 16, 2010 at 4:17 am
(5) vince says:

not stretching before or after a routine say, aerobics/dance/floor workout/ or even just basic walking on the treadmill, can cause a lot of ligament and tendon damage and to the basic skeleto muscular system…. the effects might not necessarily show but they do have aftermaths which could be permanent.
the body needs time to activate its self…. if you have to work out well the next day, stretch today…. thats the key to having great consecutive workout sessions….

September 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm
(6) Fitness fan says:

I don’t see much duplication or redundancy in my pre and post workout stretching and the stretching that occurs during my upper body weight routine, since the motions are vastly different. I have no doubt my coordination and balance improve with my upper body weight exercise, along with the increase in strength.

I agree with the positive results of stretching as cited by Paige above. I do stretch both before and after my workout. If I don’t stretch at the completion of my workout, I’m more likely to be sore the next day when I’m ready to exercise again. I’m also in my mid-60s so stretching may be even more important for me.

September 16, 2010 at 11:52 pm
(7) StrengthCoach96 says:

Flexibility training is an important part of a workout, provided it is the correct method for the purpopse of the workout. Static stretching should be done after a workout session (during the cool-down) in order to deactivate and relax the muscle after it has performed work. A dynamic warm-up, complete with dynamic flexibility, should be performed before a workout session to prepare and activate the muscle in order to perform work. Relaxing a muscle before requiring it to do work can and will cause injury. The book “Dynamic Stretching” by Dr. Mark Kovacs discusses this idea in greater detail, and the references cited challenge the efficacy of static stretching during the warm-up phase; other neuromuscular activation techniques are recommended.

September 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm
(8) Pam says:

Stretching is the reward for working out, isn’t it?

September 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm
(9) Trish says:

I rarely stretch out after a workout, despite knowing that I should. I workout in the morning and walk to work, so it feels like my workout winds down fairly easily. Come the next morning – or a long period of sitting at the office – and I’ve realized that it was stupid to skip it.

Wash, rinse, repeat; for whatever reason, stretching has failed to take root as a habit. There’s always room for improvement!

September 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm
(10) Karin says:

I stretch every day. My yoga teaching and yoga practice has me stretching every day, and I KNOW I wouldn’t feel as free and good in my body if I neglected it. So many people don’t know what they are missing by not stretching and living in a stiff body.

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