Why stretching is just as important as exercise

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Before or after your workout, you might stretch mostly, while sometimes you rush to get home and shower after your sweat session. Maybe you never even stretch. But if you knew that stretching is just as important as the exercise itself, you might want to invest the extra time in your body and well being. Here’s why.

Stretching is great for your body. It helps it become more flexible by increasing your range of motion.  It can assist you in fixing your posture by making tight muscles longer.  Due to so much of our time spent sitting down at our desks, many people have very tight chest muscles, which in turn pulls our heads and shoulders forward, creating a hunched shoulder look.

Stretching can also help decrease our risk of injury, by preparing muscles for the work they about to engage in, meaning stretching them out before a workout. Stretching also increases the amount of blood and nutrient supply that enters the muscles which can also help reduce muscle soreness.

Not only for your body but for your mind as well stretching can go a very long way. Even taking just 10 to 15 minutes of your day to stretch can significantly calm you down and reduce feelings of anxiety.  It gives your body the chance to recharge and provides your mind with a mental break.  Classes such as pilates or yoga which are mostly stretch based provide a full hour of tension releasing moves, both mentally and physically.

In order to get the most of your stretching, it is important to know how to do it right and when to do it.  Your muscles should be warm before you start stretching, therefore doing a warmup before a workout will effectively stimulate the movement about to be done. This also means that you are better off not stretching before your workout. Save it for after your workout when your muscles have already been warmed up.

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You will also want to focus on the specific muscles that require the most stretching. Rather than attempting to stretch out your entire body after every workout, try focusing on a key part of the body every time. Invest more time in each stretch rather than rushing through your session to get it all done. This way you can incorporate a wide variety of stretches for the muscles that really need it.  In most cases, you should aim to stretch the muscles that feel the tightest.

And to really maximize your stretching success it is ideal to make one long flexibility session part your routine each week.  Some examples include pilates, yoga, hot yoga or even your own flexibility session, just make sure it lasts somewhere between 45 to 60 minutes and that you do it at least once a week.  Your body will thank you.

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