Stretching is a good habit to get into as it helps to keep you flexible whatever your occupation and age. It promotes mobility which is essential for general wellbeing and during any physical effort.
If you are a fan of exercise, the better your quality of movement, the better your performance.
If you sit or drive all day, stretches that help reverse your daily posture could help to keep the aches and pains at bay! In fact, exercise physiologists advise incorporating 2-minute stretching breaks every hour into your work routine to help prevent pains associated with static work posture.
Types of stretches
There are 2 main types of stretches: dynamic and static.
Dynamic stretches move a muscle group through its entire range of motion in a smooth and fluid manner.
Static stretches are used to stretch a muscle or muscle group rapidly to its limit and holding it there for 10-30 seconds.
Studies show that both are effective but dynamic stretches are seen as more beneficial as they involve all the fibres of a muscle group and encourage them to stretch progressively in a more natural sequence.
Whether you choose dynamic or static stretches for your routine it’s important to remember that neither should be painful. Only stretch as far as the range of motion you require on a daily basis.
When should you stretch?
Stretching should be part of everyone’s daily routine. As long as you stretch the muscles that you tend to overuse on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter whether you decide to stretch little and often throughout the day rather than incorporate a longer stretching session once a day.
There is a lot of controversy regarding stretching around exercise: is it best to stretch before or after?
Stretching before exercise in itself hasn’t been shown to improve performance, help prevent injury or reduce post-exercise muscle soreness - this is the role of a well-designed warm-up session.
However, dynamic stretches that don’t take the muscle beyond its comfortable range of motion can be used quite successfully as a warm-up. This ensures that you ‘wake’ every fibre gently and repeated movements through the entire range of motion encourage a healthy generalised warm-up. These include brisk walking/lunges/high steps where each movement is exaggerated to allow the muscle fibres to stretch thoroughly.
Static stretches should not be used at all pre-exercise as they can damage the fibres causing potential injury and pain.
This is the best time to stretch as your muscles will be at their loosest. The heat generated in the muscles during exercise promotes a larger comfortable range of motion. This means you can stretch further without causing pain or injury whether you are using dynamic or static stretches. Research shows that the best time to stretch is in the 15 minutes following physical activity.
Whether you are active or sit at a desk all day, stretching should become an essential part of your daily routine as it can help keep aches and pains at bay and boost performance. Get started today!