Stretching often takes a backseat to the exercise routine. Many active people believe that they don’t need to bother when going for a walk or putting in a few miles on the treadmill. However, some studies indicate that stretching prior to exercise can improve flexibility, which in turn decreases the risk of Florida orthopedic injury. Similarly, gently stretching post-exercise can relieve tightness in muscles and joints, lessening stiffness and soreness later. Follow these seven tips from the Mayo Clinic to make sure you stretch safely and effectively.
1. Don’t consider stretching a warm-up. “You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up.”
2. Focus on major muscle groups. “When you’re stretching, focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play.”
3. Don’t bounce. “Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle … Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch three or four times.”
4. Don’t aim for pain. “Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far.”
5. Make stretches sport specific. “Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity. If you play soccer, for instance, you’re more vulnerable to hamstring strains. So opt for stretches that help your hamstrings.”
6. Keep up with your stretching. “Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the best benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.”
7. Bring movement into your stretching. “Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific movements. The gentle movements of tai chi, for instance, may be a good way to stretch. And if you’re going to perform a specific activity, such as a front kick in martial arts, do the move slowly and at low intensity at first to get your muscles used to it. Then speed up gradually as your muscles become accustomed to the motion.”
While stretching won’t prevent certain injuries, such as overuse, it can go a long way toward making your exercise regimen more effective and enjoyable. If you have health concerns, please talk to your doctor or physical therapist at Fort Lauderdale Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, or call (954) 400-5544 to schedule a personal consultation.