Getting Started With Flexibility and Stretching

Topic Overview

Stretching will help you as you become more active. It may help prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness and cramping. It will also help you with everyday tasks, such as tasks where you need to reach for things or bend over.

Types of stretches include a calf stretch, groin stretch, and hamstring stretch.

Here's one approach to stretching:

  • Warm up your muscles first. Take 5 to 10 minutes to do light aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging in place.
  • Stretch for 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Try to hold each stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Be sure to stretch the muscles you will be using when you exercise.
    • Ease yourself into the stretch, relax, and don't push or bounce. You should feel a stretch that might be a little uncomfortable, but not painful.
    • Breathe normally as you do the stretch.
    • Try closing your eyes while stretching. It helps you relax and reduces self-consciousness and the urge to compete.
    • Take a moment to enjoy the good, warm feeling that comes after a good stretch.
  • Do your exercise program.
  • Cool down after your program by taking another 5 to 10 minutes to stretch. Your muscles are usually very warm and will benefit from stretching and lengthening to improve your overall flexibility and reduce soreness.

When you exercise, you repeatedly shorten your muscles. To counter this effect, you need to stretch slowly and regularly, which makes you more flexible. Combining it with other fitness activities is best.

You don't have to limit stretching to an activity warm up. You can stretch anytime: First thing in the morning, during your coffee break, or in the office for a few minutes. You can also try activities that include stretching, such as dance, martial arts (aikido or karate), tai chi, or yoga.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Improving flexibility. Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 151–164. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
Last Revised July 17, 2012

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