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Stretch For Life

Is Stretching Important?

Most people do some sort of exercise. We do walking, strength training, cardio, high intensity intervals, and play sports. What is the most forgotten part of a work out? Stretching! But is stretching an important part of what we should be doing?

Human Kinetics is the study of how humans move and how exercise affects the body’s performance and even its health. Researchers in this field feel stretching is vital to what they study. Stretching increases the range of motion for a specific body part, but also makes moving that part easier and more efficient.

What is the best way to stretch? Depends on what you are about to do. Before a vigorous activity, “Active Stretching” is best. This involves moving the arms and legs through their ranges of motion in a way that gently produces body heat… literally “warming up” the muscles. This prepares the muscles to engage quickly when needed. Once you are finished with your activity, “Passive Stretching” works well to restore any flexibility that has been lost by a muscle repeatedly contracting and shortening during the activity. Passive stretching creates a temporary loss of muscle strength and power, so it is best done after activity and not before.

When stretching, always do it to a point that you feel a gentle tension on the muscle. Unless you have been doing a lot of stretching, trying to push the stretch to its limits can produce the opposite effects of what you want. Holding a stretch between 20 and 30 seconds is a typical recommendation for improving muscle length and tightness. Some studies show a decreasing benefit from repetitions of stretches at one time. Doing between 1 and 3 repetitions of a stretch gives you the most benefit in the least amount of time.

What stretches are best to do? That is the tricky question. This will depend on which muscle groups are tight on YOUR body. A stretch that helps one person may not do much for someone else. Occasionally, a specific stretch may be absolutely wrong for the pain or stiffness that you feel.

Stretching keeps the body lubricated and agile. It can increase a muscle’s strength, if that muscle has been excessively tight. Also, stretching reduces signals to the brain indicating a problem with the muscle, so it reduces pain levels.

It is always best to start out working with a health professional like a chiropractor, to be assessed for the specific way to approach stretching. As things improve, you can always add more.

Is stretching important? In a word, YES!

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