Importance of Stretching Muscles, Tendons, Joints
Stretching exercises and flexibility training keep your muscles and joint connections supple and healthy. Experts suggest you fit stretching and flexibility exercises into your weekly regimen at least 2-3 times, and also stretch after every single workout.
Stretching a muscle is a passive motion in which your body positioning causes lengthening of certain muscles and surrounding joints. Stretching these areas keeps your muscles stronger, healthier, and able to maintain a full range of motion. Without this range of motion, muscles shorten and become tight. When you call on those same tight muscles for a sudden activity – catching a Frisbee or picking up a heavy gym bag - your muscles and their attachments are unable to extend all the way. That weakness and stiffness puts you at risk for muscular strains, sprains and chronic pain.
Increasing the flexibility of the muscle-tendon-joint units also promotes better athletic performance and decreases the number of functional injuries, according to Harvard Medical School.
Significant research also indicates that careful and consistent regular stretching for people who suffer from chronic pain (like fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis) can jump start improvement in pain and functional strength, as it relates to quality of life and physical condition.
Range-of-motion exercises include full forward bends, knees-into-chest stretches, semi splits, side reaches, and any held stretch or body motion that places tendons and joints through (you guessed it!) their full range of motion.
Flexibility Lessens With Age
It's never too late to increase your stretching abilities in small increments. Sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh, the opposite of a good stretch. That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which inhibits walking. Likewise, when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis, they may become damaged from sudden movements.
Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to further injury, according to studies at Harvard Medical School. People wth especially tight muscles and joints to begin with - like those suffering from osteoarthritis - may find great relief by subtly and safely stretching those tense areas that are also uncomfortable.
Stretching increases blood flow to your working muscles and tendons, which flushes them with oxygen and nutrients. A panel of experts convened by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers their position stand and general recommendations for stretching your limits and revitalizing your body:
- ACSM recommends healthy adults do flexibility training 2-3 times per week
- In each stretch, spend 30- 60 seconds on each side equally, as you breathe deeply and avoid bouncing or tugging motions
- Instead of doing just one stretch, try doing 2-3 slow repetition on each side, alternating sides
- Personal trainers are experts at warming you up and stretching you out both before and after your workouts
- Loss of flexibility can significantly impair an individual’s ability to accomplish daily activities perform exercise. Several studies have examined the impact of declining flexibility and
Cal Fit Classes and Exercise Videos
As with any exercise program, stretching should be modified according to an your fitness level, physical function, health status, and personal goals.
A recent study of 901 military recruits examined the prevalence of injury for cadets who stretched before and after intense exercise training sessions - and those cadets who did not stretch prior to exercise. While the overall injury rate to muscles and tendons was fairly the same, the stretching participants with tendon injuries and lower backaches were found to register significantly lower pain for the regular stretchers.
Before Exercise (dynamic movements followed by short stretches)
Light walking or dynamic warm-up (arm swings, half lunges, etc.)
5-10 minutes of stretching large muscle groups (Note: Stretching does not constitute your warm-up)
After Exercise (use longer holds, deeper stretches, relaxation)
Now is your time to elongate, holding yoga-like stretching for 30-60 seconds each
Researchers believe stretching could help with fine-muscle coordination — meaning those who stretched first might have been able to avoid a tumble by making small balance adjustments.
Flexibility training is often the last thing on your mind when you are fighting for time and trying to fit in a quick workout. But it pays off in helping you soothe tight muscles, potentially helping you avoid injury and helping muscle balance for the long haul. If you need help finding the stretches that work best for you, ask our training staff for suggestions - or join one of our amazing yoga classes - and ask the instructor if you need a few new ideas.
We look forward to seeing you in a class soon!