There is a great deal of controversy over the simple act of stretching, particularly as it relates to its benefit on other forms of exercise. Some experts say stretching is best done before exercise, others say after while still others say stretching has absolutely no impact one way or the other on exercise. One thing they do agree on, however, is that stretching certainly doesn’t hurt and in the overall scheme of things can and does have a positive benefit in general that exercise alone doesn’t deliver. While we aren’t claiming that stretching before exercising is going to have a significant impact on your workout, there are some fairly simple reasons to stretch before working out. Here are 5.
1. Helps you transition from sedentary to active movement
As we age, our muscles tend to get tighter, which increases the likelihood of being injured while working out or being active. In addition, the more sedentary your lifestyle, the more important it is to loosen up joints and ligaments before subjecting them to vigorous movement. There are also two styles of stretching. The first is known as static stretching, which is the style of stretching most of us are probably used to. Static stretching holds certain poses for several seconds, attempting to stretch the muscle further. This type of stretching actually happens best when the muscles are already warm and is, in fact, the type of stretching best done after your workout. Dynamic stretching, however, is a much better way to warm up your body prior to exercise.
2. Stretching is important and you might not do it after your workout
Depending on how much time you have or how vigorous your workout is, you may or may not take the time after a workout to stretch out. For many of us, we are conditioned to think of stretching as being a part of workout prep, not workout recovery. We also have a tendency to compartmentalize, so when we consider a workout completed, we are often mentally ready to move on to the next thing and the thought of stretching just flies out the window. In addition, depending on the vigorousness of your workout, post-workout refueling may take priority over post-workout stretching. Therefore, it might be best to get this important practice in when most of us are geared towards thinking about it in the first place – prior to a workout not after. There is certainly no reason you can’t stretch both before and after a workout, but if you get it in before your workout and forget after, at least you got it in somewhere.
3. Dynamic stretching may help you be more motivated
Let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t feel like working out. In fact, many people rarely feel like working out, but instead simply know from experience how much better they feel after working out. What’s true of physics is true of life, however, and as Newton’s law says “a body in motion stays in motion.” Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting your body in motion and dynamic stretching can help with that.
4. If you only workout once a day stretching should be a part of it
Stretching by itself provides a wide range of health benefits ranging from increased circulation to minimizing lower back pain. In our busy weight and body conscious society, however, most people can barely get one workout in, let alone two and what time they do have to spend on exercise they generally want to spend on something that has a more tangible reward of either building muscle, burning major calories or both. Stretching before exercising is a good way to get in the benefits of a much less sexy but still just as healthy practice.
5. Can help you perform certain activities better
“Warm muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments are softer and more pliable, and the more pliable they are, the greater the range of motion they provide without causing injury,” said Fitness 19. Whether it’s swinging a bat or extending your arms as far as possible to make a slam dunk, warming up your muscles, joint and ligaments will allow you to stretch farther, reach wider or jump higher to achieve your athletic aims and goals without painful straining, spraining and tearing.