Think about waking up in the morning. Most likely, one of the first things you do without even thinking about it is stretch. Stretching is instinctive, meaning that your body already is leading you to do it. While this type of morning stretching is a great way to get up and going, focusing on more targeted stretching during the day will have the greatest benefit on muscles and joints.
Even though it is best to do deep stretching post-workout, your warmup can also include elements that have built-in stretches. This is often called dynamic stretching or even dynamic warmup. Examples of incorporating stretching into your warmup include performing lunges, doing high kicks, pushups, jump squats — almost any heart-boosting activity that engages the same muscles you are about to use in your sports activity or workout.
Post workout, your stretching should be even more purposeful. It is important that you stretch to reduce tension so that your muscles can return to a relaxed state. While static stretching (stretching muscles without warming up in an effort to loosen them) before a sporting activity has been shown to decrease muscle strength and power, after workout is a good time for this type of stretching. Your body already being warm from exercise will help lengthen that muscle tissue. It probably won’t prevent soreness, though.
Stretching at work
If you find yourself getting sleepy at work or school or losing concentration, it’s time to stretch. Stretching at work can guard against repetitive-motion injuries that are caused by deskwork. It can boost energy, as well.
You can begin with some simple overhead-arm stretches, but don’t stop there. Do stretches that engage your upper and lower back, your neck, your legs, and even your wrists and ankles. Don’t be embarrassed to stand up and even do a few squats. In fact, standing instead of sitting is a great way to break up your day and get your circulation flowing, so do it whenever you can.
Stretching when you are pregnant
Another important time to keep stretching is when you are pregnant. Stretching can keep you feeling your best. It can help prepare your body by lengthening muscles, which can help offset the growing stress on joints. Loose, flexible muscles also help make you comfortable as you carry extra weight.
Pregnant women should target upper and lower back muscles, leg muscles, and their chest and hips with stretches. Just remember to move slowly. Pregnancy relaxes your ligaments and joints and can affect your balance. Also, stop stretching if you are in pain. Always listen to your body.
Stretching for seniors
It’s all about maintaining that flexibility when it comes to stretching for seniors. Flexibility will help with balance, which is another great benefit. Being flexible and balanced promotes safety in day-to-day activities. Research shows that stretching at least 3 times a week for 15 to 20 minutes will improve mobility, but doing it 5 days a week is even better.
Before starting a stretching regimen, be sure to talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you’ve had hip or back surgery or any other major surgery or injury. Your doctor can guide you to some safe ways to stretch your lower body that won’t aggravate any past injuries.
Tips for better stretching
Major muscle groups really benefit from stretching. Focus on shoulders and neck, calves and thighs, hips, and lower back.
Stretch evenly on both sides.
Hold stretches for about 30 seconds.
Remember to breathe. Exhale while going into the stretch; hold the stretch as you inhale.
Don’t bounce while stretching.
Use it or lose it. You have to keep stretching if you want to maintain your flexibility.