Did you ever wonder why your old coach or personal trainer reminded you over and over again to stretch before, during and after a big game or workout? Turns out there is a real science behind stretching, and it is an extremely beneficial activity to make part of your daily routine.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching each of the major muscle groups at least two times a week for at least 60 seconds at a time. Stretching fosters better flexibility, helping you move more fluidly and inflicting less wear and tear on your body as you age.
There are two different types of stretches: static and dynamic.
A static stretch if flexing your muscle and holding it in place for 15 to 30 seconds.
A dynamic stretch moves a muscle group fluidly through an entire range of motion.
When practicing either, you should feel a stretch or slight strain, but you should never feel pain.
Stretching is something that can easily be done throughout the day no matter where you are, but here are a few key times when it is most helpful.
At the office:
- If you sit for long periods of time, make it a habit to stretch regularly, at least every hour, especially your back and neck
- The "Standing Cat-Camel" stretch is a simple exercise to perform at your desk... stand with your feet apart, bend your knees slightly, rest your hands on your knees and round your back so your shoulders are curved forward, then arch your back in a rolling motion
- Dynamic stretches, mirroring your workout but at a lower intensity, are good for warming up
- A brisk walk, walking lunges, leg swings, high steps, or "butt kicks" (slowly jogging forward while kicking toward your rear end" are also good before exercise
- Walking at a slow pace is an excellent way to wind down after a workout
- Seated stretches where you are reaching for your toes are good for the backs of legs and arms as well as your spine