The importance of stretching
If you are one of my patients then you have heard me say it a number of times, "Stretch!". You may think of stretching as only for athletes, but we all need to stretch to improve, maintain and protect our mobility.
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible and strong, and maintains range of motion of the joints. Your muscles are like rubber bands; short and tight doesn't generate enough force and strength, and can put you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage. For instance, when tight muscles are pushed with strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched, i.e. that annoying hamstring strain.
Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible, and helps to avoid injury.
Where do I to start?
Everyone's biggest issue is time. Out for a quick run after work, have 45 minutes to workout; no time to stretch. You do not have to stretch every muscles, everyday. The most important ones are hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and pelvic muscles. If you can add in stretching your shoulders, neck and lower back that would a beneficial. Stretching once won't help you long-term. You need to stretch over time and consistently to gain and maintain flexibility. Try starting a stretching plan 3-4 days a week. I always tell my patients, if you have only 5-10 minutes to do something, stretch!
The correct way to stretch
Most people think stretching before activity is the way to warm up the muscles and body. More recent research has shown that stretching the muscles before they are warm can actually hurt them. You need some blood flow to the area to make the muscles more tissue more pliable and workable. A quick walk or run, or jumping jacks to warm up the body. You can also stretch after an aerobic or weight-training workout. Hold a stretch for 25-30 seconds. You should feel a stretch, tension, but not pain. Hold a constant and gentle force, without any bouncing.