Make stretching a part of your regular life this year. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
Something as simple as stretching can be helpful to not only build muscle strength but flexibility too. While one may think it is only for runners or gymnasts, it is not. It helps you, me and everyone of us accelerate our mobility. If you are wondering how, then this is what you should know.
By simply stretching the body, one can keep the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. Remember we need the flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when the muscles are needed for some strenuous activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way which puts one at the risk of injury, joint pain and strains.
Take for instance, sitting in a chair all day without stretching the body at regular intervals might lead to tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh which makes it harder to extend the leg or straighten the knee all the way which results in walking difficulties. Such practices also make it harder for the muscles to adapt when undertaking strenuous activities which makes the body prone to strains.
Do we need to stretch each muscle in our body?
While the idea of stretching each muscle in the body may seem beyond one's imagination, worry not. There is no need to stretch each muscle in the body but those which are necessary for mobility like hamstrings, calves, hip flexors in the pelvic region along with stretching the neck and lower back.
How many times should you stretch?
It is a good practice to involve stretching in your daily routine, especially if it requires constant sitting. Make it a habit to at least stretch three to four times a week.
However, if you are undergoing treatment or suffer from a muscular condition that inhibits stretching, seek medical advice first.
One should also note that stretching only once and hoping it would make you more flexible won't help the cause. Regular stretching, even months at a stretch can help the tightened muscles to open up, gradually helping you achieve optimum flexibility.
It is also essential to remember that one should hold a stretch for 30 seconds. The tension during a stretch is good but you should not feel pain. If you do, there may be an injury or damage in the tissue. Stop stretching that muscle and talk to your doctor.
It's not a good idea to consider stretch as a warm-up, as stretching cold muscles may lead to strain. Before stretching, opt for warm-up with light walking, jogging or biking at low-intensity for five to 10 minutes. Even better, stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm.