Why Should We Stretch Before Exercise?
There’s a reason why stretching is considered so essential. Before you begin a heavy workout session, it’s important to do your stretches so that you can perform your exercise in a better physical state. Before you exercise, your muscles could be tight and tense, and stretching loosens them up to make sure you can do all the heavy lifting properly without hurting yourself. So, what are the reasons to stretch before exercising, you might ask? Let us take a look at the reasons why stretching is a must before you exercise:
Stretching before exercise can improve your flexibility. Not only is this important before exercise, but also good for your overall health. It can aid you in performing your exercise with relatively more ease, and also help with delaying the reduced mobility that comes in with age.
Muscle imbalances can often take place, which in turn can affect your posture. If your posture is not correct while exercising, you could end up hurting yourself. Stretching before exercising helps in improving your posture, encourages proper alignment, making sure that you’re not slouching while doing your exercises.
Injuries can occur while exercising, and even more so if your muscles aren’t stretched or warm enough. When your muscles are prepared, it decreases the chances of injuries taking place. Stretching can also take care of existing injuries or back pain. When you stretch regularly before exercise, it prevents back pain from occurring in the future by giving more power to your back muscles and reducing the chances of muscle strain taking place.
Amplifies Range of Motion
Stretching before you work out increases your range of motion. You can move more freely because stretching exercises allow you to move a joint through its full range of motion, thereby amplifying your freedom of movement.
A study once reported that both static, as well as dynamic stretching, are competent as far as increasing your range of motion is concerned. It also stated that proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)-type stretching, wherein a muscle is stretched to its limit, is often effective if you’re looking for immediate gains.
Improves Blood Flow and Circulation
A human being’s blood circulation improves when they stretch before exercise. When your blood circulation increases, it also increases the blood flow to your muscles. This helps in reducing the time you need for recovering from injuries, and also helps in dealing with the soreness in your muscles. It’s also known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.
Reduces Wear and Tear on Joints
If your muscles aren’t properly stretched and warmed up before exercising, they become chronically tight and tense. As a result of this, the opposing muscles become weak, and thereby cause wear and tear on various joints within the body. Regular stretching prevents this from happening and also reduces it. Stretching ensures that the muscles located on every side of a joint maintain an equal degree of pull. This allows the joint to move efficiently and freely in every direction. Hence, it reduces the stress on your body and allows for optimal movement to take place.
Takes Away Post-Exercise Pains and Aches
Stretching before exercise not only takes care of your body during exercise but also helps with the aches and pains that usually result from a workout. It loosens the muscles, keeping the shortening and tightening effect you experience after a workout, thereby preventing body aches from settling in.
Stretching is not just something one mindlessly does before exercise. In fact, the effects and benefits of stretching are multi-layered. Did you know that stretching actually enhances your physical performance and helps you work out better? When included regularly as a part of your exercise routine, stretching can help with power, agility, muscular strength, and also speed.
When performed on a regular basis before exercise, be it static stretching, PNF stretching, or even yoga stretching can offer numerous benefits to your overall health. It reduces your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, and therefore counteracts the body’s physiological responses to muscular tension and stress.
Yes, you heard it right; stretching also helps in reducing stress. You see, when you’re stressed, your muscles tend to tighten up. Therefore, be it physical or emotional stress that you’re experiencing, the muscles in areas such as your neck, upper back, and shoulders get all stiff. However, with stretching, these muscles loosen up, and this has a positive effect on you, thereby relieving you of your stress. Stretching before exercise also works on reducing the headaches that result from stress and tension. It calms your mind down and increases mindfulness to a great degree.
Tips to Follow While Stretching
There are certain stretching tips you should remember before you get into it prior to your exercise. Focusing on all tight muscles is extremely crucial while stretching. These are the results of stress and soreness and should be paid attention to for the reduction of stress and to improve one’s blood flow and circulation. This helps with your movements becoming easier and more fluid.
Don’t bounce a lot while stretching. In fact, keep it either to a minimum or don’t go into it at all. Bouncing can cause your muscles to tear, which can result in scar tissues, thereby tightening your muscles, increasing soreness, and decreasing your flexibility. Hold your stretches for about 5-60 seconds, and repeat them three to four times. The amount of time you spend holding your stretches depends on which muscles you wish to concentrate on.
Remember to not overdo it. Stretching does put stress on your body, and if the same groups of muscles are stretched multiple times a day, there’s the risk of damage and over-stressing. Also, make sure to not start your stretches cold. Always remember that you can stop stretching the minute you begin to feel uncomfortable or over-exhausted. This is especially important because you have to exercise post stretching, and you can’t over-exert your body beforehand.