How often do we actually stretch before and after a workout, or a hike. There are many activities we participate in that would be beneficial for us to stretch following the activity. Stretching is best to be performed following an activity and a dynamic warm up is best before activity. Stretching is something we are all told to do, after exercise, when in pain, etc. But do we actually know how to stretch correctly?

There are many principles and theories to stretching, but there are three basic ideas. Length of stretch, what stretching should feel like, and frequency of stretching. When it comes to stretching, there are many different modifications for stretches. Make sure you find what works best for you. 

What is the ideal time to perform a stretch for? The average given time to stretch for lasting effect is 30 seconds. However, as we age our body loses it elasticity over time. Therefore the older you get, the longer you need to stretch. So it’s okay for a 15 year old to hold for thirty seconds but a 50 year old should hold for a minute or longer. It is not good to ‘pulse’ or bob in a stretch position, this quick change in muscle length can lead to muscle tears.  

Stretching is a sensation all on its own. How do we tell the difference between a good stretch and something that is hurting us. A stretch by nature is pulling the muscle between its insertion and origin points. Based on this, a stretch should feel like your muscles are being pulled or like a tense rope. It will feel different for everyone, but that is the general feeling most people describe. If you are stretching and feel a sharp pain or throbbing pain, stop doing the stretch, or don’t stretch as far. 

What happens if you don’t stretch? The World Health Organization “WHO” reports that 20-33% of people around the world live with a musculoskeletal injury. When your muscles don’t have much flexibility, bending down quickly to pick up something that is falling can lead to a hamstring tear.  Making a quick move to stop so you don’t run into your child running around the corner, suddenly reaching to catch a falling soup can, etc. When our muscles don’t have much length to them, we can easily injure them when doing something unexpected. If our muscles are flexible they are less vulnerable in unexpected movements. 

When we don’t stretch, it also makes daily tasks difficult as we get tighter. If we don’t have the hamstring flexibility, tying your shoes can become a painful task. Things like reaching up in the cupboard,  trying to zip up a dress, washing your hair, all very important tasks, can become impossible if your muscles get tight enough. It is so important to stretch often. 

If you are not sure how to stretch certain muscle groups or would like some guidance to avoid a future injury. Give us a call, we would be happy to walk you through a personalized stretching routine that will work for you. We can show you a wide range of stretches specifically for you that you can do from a chair at work, or in bed, etc.

 Let us help you! 

Don’t forget to breathe!