The Benefits of Safe Stretching

Source: GMN News
You may think that stretching is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before jumping on the treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?
Although studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, stretching may help you improve your joint range of motion, which in turn may help improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury.
Stretching can help improve flexibility. Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enabling your muscles to work most effectively. Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle.
If your current stretching routine doesn’t appear to improve overall flexibility, then you may want to consider making some changes. The American Council on Exercise warns against stretching cold muscles and promotes warm-up activities before stretching.
Traditional stretches such as bending over to touch your toes or stretching out your legs on a fence may be part of your pre-exercise routine, but this type of stretching, also known as static stretching, increases your risk of injury and does not promote flexibility.
Use these tips to keep stretching safe:
• Focus on major muscle groups. When you’re stretching, focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders.
• Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause injury to your muscle. Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing.
• Hold your stretch. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds. Breathe normally as you stretch.
• Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far.
• 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. Your brain will accept it as “the new normal.”

By Dr. Ira Shapiro, Director
Plaza Chiropractic Center
Old Bridge NJ

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