Why Stretching Is Important for Your Workout

By: Mollie Shauger | Monday, January 20, 2020 | Fitness

Men and women stretching their arms in a fitness class. Credit: iStock

Stretching can easily be overlooked during exercise if we don’t make time for it. However, a stretching routine is essential for keeping muscles flexible and healthy, and can actually aid performance in a workout or a sports game, as well as in other daily tasks. 

The American Council on Exercise lists the top 10 reasons to stretch

  1. Decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion
  2. May reduce the risk of injury
  3. Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains
  4. Improves posture
  5. Helps reduce or manage stress
  6. Reduces muscular tension and enhances muscular relaxation
  7. Improves mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance
  8. Prepares the body for the stress of exercise
  9. Promotes circulation
  10. Decreases the risk of low-back pain

When is a good time to stretch?

According to Verywell Fit, making time to stretch can improve your flexibility, and flexible muscles allow your joints to move through a full range of motion, enabling you to get the most out of your workout.

  • Always stretch after a workout, when muscles are warm and pliable. This is a good time to do static stretches, which provide a slow cool-down period for muscles and will help reduce soreness.
  • Warm up your muscles before stretching by doing five to 10 minutes of light activity, such as walking. 
  • You can perform dynamic stretches before a workout to prepare your muscles. For example: do arm swings to stretch and loosen your arm muscles before an upper-body weight-training session. Stretches done before exercising can help reduce the risk of injuries
  • Stretch regularly - not only to benefit your muscles, but to also help relieve stress and tension. Strive to stretch daily or at least three or four times per week.

Tips for successful stretching

Try these tips from leading health and fitness organizations to help you get the most out of stretching routine:

  • Focus on major muscle groups, like your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. 
  • Stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use.
  • Hold stretches for at least 15-30 seconds; 60 for more problem areas.
  • If you feel pain instead of tension while stretching, stop the stretch, reset, and try it again.
  • Breathe while you stretch, but don’t hold your breath.
  • Mix up your routine: Combining stretching with gentle movements, like those in tai chi or yoga, can help you be more flexible, and can also help reduce falls in seniors.
  • If you have chronic health conditions, get approval from a doctor before beginning a new stretching regimen.

New to the gym or to a fitness routine? Speak with a YMCA staff member or trainer for suggestions and tips on how to get the most out of your workout. 


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