There are many benefits to stretching. A few benefits are improved range of motion (ROM) and improved joint flexibility. While stretching is not a guarantee of injury prevention if done properly, stretching can relax the muscles, increase range of motion and flexibility. This will improve performance and decrease the chances of injury to the muscles and joints. Although stretching does not prevent injury, it can reduce the risk greatly; especially if one stretches correctly and consistently. Stretching increases blood flow which prevents hardening of the arteries and also increases production of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid lubricates the joints that are surrounded by the muscles, which can help prevent some forms of joint inflammation. Stretching will help stabilize the body’s natural balance, posture, and aligns the joints. After activity, such as exercise there is a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle. By stretching the muscle, the lactic acid is removed, therefore alleviating any muscle soreness or cramps. It is important for a person to perform stretches properly and consistently to gain the full benefits.
Stretching Do’s and Don’ts!
• Don’t consider stretching a warm-up. It is possible to injure yourself if you overstretch cold muscles. Quick warm-ups like jogging in place for a few minutes or ROM exercise will help warm up muscles.
• Focus on major muscle groups. Make sure that you stretch all areas of the body upper and lower, right and left. Don’t leave your body unbalanced.
• Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. So, hold each stretch for about 8 to 10 seconds. Repeat each stretch four to 5 times.
• Don’t aim for pain. Stretching should not be painful. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain.
• Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity.
• Keep up with your stretching. You can achieve the best benefits by stretching regularly.