Whether it's going for your brisk morning walk, rushing off to a dance class or even doing your strength/resistance training, remember that every time you exercise you need to include a warm up and a cool down.
Your warm up may be a 2-3 minute jog to raise a light sweat or even walking on the treadmill in your local gym. When you start to get a light sweat up, your body is preparing itself for more activity. It's important to warm up to increase heat throughout your body and to reduce tearing or straining your muscles. Our body "warms up" because our blood is moving more freely around our body.
After warming up, we need to stretch. There are many benefits of stretching, for example:
- Increased flexibility and freedom of movement
- Prevention of injuries
- Improved muscle coordination
- Reduced risk of muscle and tendon injuries
- Decreased muscle tightness
- Reduced muscle tension and post exercise soreness
- Increased coordination
- Decreased occurrence of muscle strains
- Improved circulation
Don't stretch till it hurts
The best way to stretch is to stretch to the point of tension, but never to the point of pain and never when cold — the best time to stretch is when you've warmed up. Take your time to gently and slowly move into your stretches, holding for 15 to 30 seconds while breathing deeply all the way through, while concentrating on keeping the area you're stretching relaxed.
Why not do a couple of stretches first thing in the morning before the start of each day; or whenever you feel stiff and need to release some muscle tightness.
If you'd like to increase your flexibility, a 20-minute stretching session 2-3 times per week is recommended. However, make sure you do a thorough warm up before doing this.
Don't forget after any physical activity to do a cool down, perhaps a 2-3 minute light jog or a walk followed by 5-10 minutes of stretching. A cool down helps prevent muscle soreness and stiffness and helps flush out muscle waste products.