When it comes to fitness, many people overlook the importance of stretching. Yet the reality is that stretching—especially before an intense workout—is beneficial for many different reasons. Not only is it important to stretch before a workout, daily stretching is good for your health in general. Keep reading to learn why stretching is good for your health.
Why You Should Stretch
Regular stretching helps your muscles stay flexible, and flexible muscles are healthy muscles. When muscles aren’t stretched they tighten. Tight muscles impede activity and may lead to injury. Stretching before or after physical activity eliminates tightness and ensures that your body will move with ease and comfort. Stretching is particularly important for seniors because it helps with balance. Tight leg muscles can make walking difficult, and this situation increases the chances of falling.
Which Muscles Should You Target?
While opinions differ on the number of muscles in the body, experts believe that the range is around 640-850. That’s a lot of muscles to stretch! Fortunately, it’s not necessary—or even possible to stretch every muscle. Some of the most important muscles to stretch include the hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and neck. When doing a particular exercise, it’s a good idea to target the muscles used during that exercise. For example, runners should target their lower extremities before getting started. If you lift weights that target your arms, then the stretches you do should also target your arms.
Make It A Routine
In order to be effective, stretching must be done on a regular basis. Muscles take time to get tight; therefore, it takes time to make them flexible. Once you’ve achieved a healthy level of flexibility, you will need to keep stretching on a regular basis in order to maintain it. The best time of the day to stretch is during the morning before you start your day. This way your muscles will be ready to go once your day begins. Stretching before you go to bed is another good idea. If you bookend each day with stretching sessions, you’ll gain increased flexibility and better balance.
You should never experience pain when stretching. While a slight amount of discomfort is normal, you should immediately stop if you feel acute pain. It takes time to become flexible, and some people just aren’t as flexible as others. Don’t push yourself too hard. Remember it takes years for your muscles to become tight. You won’t be able to loosen them up in just one session.