Stretching maintains, improves, and increases flexibility. This muscle flexibility allows your joints to achieve their full range of motion. Stretching helps to keep your muscles supple, allowing them to extend to their full potential; this helps us when exercising or playing sport, during recovery, and in our every day activities.
Stretching and Exercise
Stretching after exercise is a great way to cool down and shortens your recovery time from moderate to heavy forms of exercise.This kind of stretching should be focused on the muscles you worked on during your exercise. Not only does stretching aid in the recovery process after exercise, stretching prior to exercise can help to prevent injury as well. A short warm up followed by some stretching before a large work out will allow your muscles to warm up properly and have the flexibility needed to achieve your full potential during exercise. Proper stretching can also help aid in rehabilitation from injury or surgery; these kinds of stretches should be given to you by your healthcare professional as part of your rehabilitation process.
Stretching in everyday life
If you don’t, or even can’t, regularly exercise, stretching is still important to counter the often very sedentary lifestyles we live – sitting at computers, in the car, on the train, or on the couch. Our muscles become weak and bunched up when stuck in the same position for hours on end, this can lead to injury down the line from very small and insignificant movement. Stretching helps to keep these muscles loose and supple, so stand up from your computer and stretch! Also taking on a strenuous task outside of your normal activities, such as chopping wood at the start of winter, or moving house, can cause injury if you don’t properly prepare your body for the task, so it is vital to stretch or ‘limber up’ before doing these activities.
While stretching is great for you, like most things in life, it is important not to overdo it. Some people feel that you need to stretch to the point of it being uncomfortable or even painful, this is not true. You should only stretch to your limits, meaning to the point where you feel the stretch, but not pain. Stretching beyond this point and for extended periods of time, can be damaging to your muscles fibers and can cause injury down the line. The best way to stretch is to hold at your limit for 5-10 seconds, or 3-4 breathes, allowing your body to relax into the stretch, and then stretching a small amount further until you feel that limit again repeating 1-2 more times if needed. This might only be a millimeter or few centimeters at a time, but that’s okay; increasing your flexibility should not be rushed, or forced.
If you have been given stretches for part of your home care it is important that you follow the instructions given to you. Or if you are wondering if stretching is the right thing for you at this time, please don’t hesitate to ask us about it.