5 tips for safe stretches
Stretching is vital to improve flexibility and it allows your joints to maintain their full range of motion. It can also relieve muscle tension and stiffness. Sitting for long periods of time can cause muscles to tense up and shorten. Start a stretching routine to help combat this!
Benefits of stretching
- Improved range of motion
- Decreased risk of injury during daily activities
- Improved blood circulation
Stretches can be done standing, seated in a chair, or on the floor. If you are performing floor stretches, you can sit on an exercise mat or a towel.
Below are some stretch safety tips provided by Desiree Baumer, Licensed Athletic Trainer (LAT), Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), ACE Certified Health Coach.
Tips to keep stretching safe
1. Stretch your muscles when they are warm.
Stretching muscles before you've warmed up can increase your risk of injury. Add stretches to your workout by performing them during your cool down. If you are performing a "stretching only" routine, walk for 3-5 minutes to warm up the muscles. Arm circles are perfect for warming up the upper body before stretching.
2. Stretch to the point of tension, not pain.
Stretching isn't supposed to hurt. When you stretch to the point of pain, you've gone too far and are at risk of injury. Static stretching is the safest type of stretch. This is when you slowly stretch your muscle to the end of its range of motion. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and be sure to stretch each side of the body evenly.If 20 seconds is too painful, start with holding each stretch for 10 seconds and work up to 20 seconds.
3.Don't bounce when you stretch.
Bouncing as you stretch can injure your muscle and actually contribute to muscle tightness. Stretch in a smooth movement until you feel tension, then hold for the prescribed time. Bouncing through a stretch doesn't give your muscles a chance to lengthen.
4.Don't hold your breath when stretching.
Taking deep breaths can help to relax the muscles while you're stretching. This can lead to a deeper stretch. Holding your breath prevents oxygen from getting to your muscles. Inhale before starting the stretch and exhale as you go into and hold the stretch.
5.Be consistent with your stretches.
To see results, stretching should be done routinely. Use a calendar or a stretching app to remind you to stretch throughout the week.A good goal is to stretch 2-3 times per week. This will help improve flexibility. Being consistent with stretching can also delay the reduction of mobility that comes with aging.
Remember: Keep good posture while stretching! If you are performing standing or seated stretches, be sure to keep your back straight. Don't allow your shoulders to slouch when performing stretching exercises.