How often do you stretch? What I usually hear when I ask this question is that it's the first thing to go by the wayside when exercising or that "I know I need to stretch more"! As I coach my clients, think of stretching as part of your lifestyle "practice" and one of the most important steps of your exercise and fitness routine. When I say practice, I mean something we continue to work on, develop, spend time on improving and practice our stretching as a healthy habit.
Knowing what type of stretch to do before and after our workouts is also important. There are Dynamic Stretches and Static Stretches. Dynamic Stretching, active stretching, emulates the movements we will be doing during our workout and prepares the joints for movements and the muscles for optimum activation. The benefits of Dynamic Stretching include:
- Increases Blood Flow and Flexibility
- Increases Range of Motion
- Focuses on Different Muscle Groups
- Improves Athletic Performance
- Aids in Warming Up The Body and Increasing Heart Rate Prior To Exercise
Static Stretching should be performed AFTER exercise and targets specific, isolated muscle groups. Static Stretches, or stationary, help increase flexibility and muscle recovery. It's recommended that we hold a static stretch for 30-60 seconds for maximum benefit to lengthen the muscle.
Stretching in the morning, throughout the day and after a long work or school day is also beneficial to re-energize, keep muscles activated and flexible and loose and helps clear the mind supporting our intellectual, mental and emotional fitness. I recommend daily stretching as part of creating a lifestyle of health and wellness, even if it's just 5 minutes a day throughout the day when not exercising (spend time on dynamic stretching prior to and static post workout). For ideas or examples of stretches or specific stretches that will benefit your body's needs, attend a Yoga class (I love yoga purely for the stretching exercises!) or consult a Health Coach or Personal Trainer.