We’re often asked common questions around stretching in clinic -
‘Should I stretch?’ and ‘How often should I stretch?’
So we’re going to use this blog to simplify the concept of stretching and put some rules in place around when you should stretch or would get the most benefits from stretching.
Here are the reasons why we stretch;
· Improve flexibility
· Improve circulation
· Reduce stress and tension
· Improve joint mobility
· Optimises performance
· Reduces risk of injury
It is often misconceived that stretching is for sport and higher levels of activity. However as we age we naturally become less flexible, making it more important to stretch outside of exercise, in order to perform ordinary daily movement, and to do so optimally.
A lack of stretching can cause inflexibility, where overtime contraction of a muscle causes the muscle and surrounding fascia to become functionally short, which puts more strain on your joints and consequently makes you more susceptible to injury. Our body’s function best when there is less tension and resistance within our musculoskeletal system, as this requires more energy expenditure and can make day to day task more tiring.
What are the different types of stretching and when should I use them?
Static stretches are still stretches where you hold a position for a set amount of time. The aim of this type of stretching is to increase muscle length, which is achieved by holding a muscle on stretch at its end range of motion.
This type of stretching should be used after exercise to lengthen muscle tissue and help align fibres in the stretch direction of the muscle to improve recovery. Or as a tool for pain management to reduce muscle tension associated with joint pain and can be done in the absence of exercise for this purpose.
Static stretching should be held between 10-30 seconds to improve flexibility. To optimally stretch this needs to be done in sets of 3 repetitions.
This type of stretching uses repetition of movement, replicating the actions of our sport or activity. It is often included into a warm up routine and should be done before the exercise after a pulse raiser as warm muscles are most receptive to dynamic movement and reduces the chance of injury on warming up.
How often should I stretch?
· Static stretches for pain relief – when experiencing pain or daily to prevent pain
· General stretching daily to reduce tension from postural patterns or repetitive activities
· During a warm up for physical activity
· Post physical activity
As a general rule stretching 3 times a week outside of exercise will help to improve your flexibility. There are loads of great apps and Youtube videos out there that may help get you started.
It’s not too late to start stretching!!!