Fitness Articles

Reference Guide to Stretching

An In-Depth Look at Flexibility

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Stretching does not demand a huge time commitment, but it can give you huge results! Here are some of the benefits you can expect from a regular stretching program:
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Increased range of movement in the joints
  • Enhanced muscular coordination
  • Increased circulation to various parts of the body
  • Increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation)
  • Delayed onset of muscle fatigue
  • Enhanced performance in daily life, sports, or other physical activity
  • Improved posture
  • Mental relaxation
  • Added variety, enjoyment, and satisfaction to your exercise program
Stretching is important for people of all ages! One of the greatest benefits of stretching is that you’re able to increase your range of motion, which means your limbs and joints can move further without discomfort or injury. Post-exercise stretching can also aid in workout recovery, decrease muscle soreness, and ensure that your muscles and tendons are in good working order. The more conditioned your muscles and tendons are, the better they can handle the rigors of sport and exercise, and the less likely that they'll become injured.

What Influences Your Level of Flexibility?
There are four main factors that affect your flexibility level and ability to stretch:
  1. Age. Younger people are naturally more flexible than older people. Why? Muscle connective tissues have a natural tendency to shorten and lose elasticity as you age, resulting in muscle tightness and stiffness.
  2. Gender. Females tend to be more flexible than males.
  3. Exercise history. Active people tend to be more flexible than inactive people.
  4. Temperature. When your muscles are warm (whether from exercising or from a warmer environment), they will be more flexible than when they are cold. Why? Increase in muscle temperature decrease muscular resistance, which boosts your range of motion.
How Much Stretching Should You Do?
When considering the guidelines for aerobic exercise, keep the FITT principles in mind (Frequency, (Intensity, Time and Type).
  • Frequency: Number of stretching sessions per week
    The more frequently you stretch, the more quickly you will gain flexibility. It is recommended to stretch all of the major muscle groups daily—or at the very least, each time you exercise (a minimum of 3-4 times per week).
     
  • Intensity: How deeply to stretch
    Each stretch should be done in a slow and controlled manner, without bouncing or forcing, which can cause your muscles to tighten, increasing your risk of injury. Stretch in a slow, steady motion to the point of “mild discomfort.” If you are stretching to the point of pain, you have stretched too far.
     
  • Time: How long you should stretch
    Ideally, most experts recommend that people stretch for 10-15 minutes per day. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, repeating one or two more times, depending on how you feel. Continued ›
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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