neta & afaa Certified Trainer
One of the most important steps you can take toward true fitness doesn’t happen during the cardio or weight-training portion of your workout. Here’s how stretching can make you stronger, healthier and fitter.
According to a 2012 report from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), tight muscles — the kind that result from skipping your post-workout stretch — can contribute to back pain or difficulty performing simple tasks.
Think about it this way: Remember when your mother or grandmother started complaining that she could no longer touch her toes or reach items tucked away in the upper cupboards? If you are not stretching, no matter how fit you think you are, you could be on your way to losing your mobility sooner than expected.
There really is no down side to being flexible either. In a 2012 ACSM report on basic knee injury prevention, stretching was cited as the first and most important line of defense against injury, and named an absolute must for those who had already sustained a strain, sprain or tear. Moreover, several studies have revealed that regular stretching, even for a short duration, increases the motion range of a joint and may reduce muscle stiffness post-workout. This is due to the fact that stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, helping rid them of lactic acid and other byproducts, which in turn reduces muscle soreness. Plus, the more you stretch, the more you’ll be able to create muscular balance in the body. Tight hamstrings can lead to sore glutes and hips, which will impede progress.
This much is clear — in the same way you nourish your body for your workouts with healthy eating and proper hydration, you must also nourish your muscles through flexibility training.
So, make stretching apart of your lifestyle by working it into key moments, like waking up in the morning and going to bed at night. Both are optimal times to reap the pain-relieving and stress-reducing benefits. Stretching will result in more energy during the day and a better sleep at night. Your end-result will be a more balanced and happier you.