To stretch or not to stretch.
Often it’s tough enough to find the time to get out for a run or go to the gym, let alone fitting in a warm-up or warm-down on the stretching mat.
But the benefits of spending a few minutes stretching cold muscles before exercise and warming them down afterwards are countless.
One of the main benefits of stretching is that it elongates the muscle to prepare it for the coming exercise. When a muscle is elongated, the joints around it have more range of motion, which in turn leads to more muscles being used in symphony. This will dramatically reduce the chance of injury. Stretching is more important for some people than it is for others. Woman tend to be more flexible than men, due to males having more muscle mass. And the sort of lifestyle you have led will have a major impact on how flexible you are. For instance, someone who has been a ballet dancer from an early age will always remain flexible.
One of the best ways to improve flexibility is through yoga, which is growing in popularity. Aside from the spiritual journey, it can improve flexibility by more than 30 per cent in just four weeks.
How often and for how long should we stretch? There is much debate on this question, but like anything you must read your body. For starters, try to hold a stretch for 30 seconds for each major muscle group. Do that for two sets. On the second set, you might feel your muscles are able to go further down. Make sure it is not too painful – the pain should be about six out of 10.
Do this every day and you will feel yourself improve rapidly, with significant improvements in flexibility.