Do you make time to go to the gym a few times per week? If so, you should commend yourself for your efforts. But at our physical therapy clinic, we notice an interesting trend with a lot of our active patients: they go to the gym regularly, but they largely neglect stretching and mobility work.
We’re not sure why this is so common—maybe because stretching doesn’t seem as “exciting” as an actual workout. But proper stretching before and after exercise has many proven health benefits and can improve your workout, too! Talk to a physical therapist today about which types of stretching you should focus on and find out which areas on your body have limited range of motion and flexibility. In the meantime, keep reading to learn why stretching is so great for your body and mind.
5 Benefits of Stretching Pre- and Post-Workout
1. Stretching can prepare your body for exercise.
Dynamic stretching before a workout can help your muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and other tissues become loosened up and prepared for exercise. Pre-workout mobility also increases core body temperature and stimulates increased blood flow throughout the body so your tissues will have adequate amount of oxygen to work.
Meanwhile, stretching after a workout helps you cool down appropriately and reduce tissue tightness and pain.
2. Stretching can enhance your workout performance.
A personalized stretching routine that addresses your specific areas of postural imbalances and tightness can help you improve your range of motion. When you combine this with strength training and aerobic conditioning, you can expect to function more efficiently during your workouts and enjoy greater stamina, power, and speed.
Since pre-workout mobility also prepares your body for exercise, it’ll also help you safely reach your desired workout intensity more quickly since you’ll be able to start a workout already warmed up and ready to go.
3. Stretching may reduce your risk of injury.
The research isn’t a slam dunk, but some studies do show that stretching may reduce your risk of muscle strains, ligament sprains, joint damage, and other painful injuries common with sports and athletics.
4. Stretching can reduce stress.
Stretching regularly—especially when combined with deep breathing and mindfulness exercises—is a great way to ease mental stress and even reduce signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
5. Stretching can improve your overall health.
Regular stretching has been shown to improve your blood pressure and heart rate as well as maximize your overall mobility, especially as you age.
What Kind of Stretching Do I Need?
You may have heard that stretching “cold” muscles isn’t ideal—which is true. Our bodies need to be adequately warmed up prior to stretching, especially static holds at end range—otherwise we increase our risk for injury and tissue damage.
This doesn’t mean you should never stretch at all before a workout, however. A simple 5-minute warm-up such as light jogging, brisk walking, and arm circles and leg swings is usually sufficient to get your joints and tissues warmed up and prepared for mobility work.
For many folks, dynamic stretches are the most effective for pre-workout mobility. Meanwhile, they’ll save static stretches and foam rolling for after the workout. Wondering what works best for you? Our physical therapist staff is happy to help you problem-solve and figure out the best routine for your body.
Do You Need to Add More Stretching to Your Routine?
If you’d like to become more disciplined with a mobility routine and need some inspiration and education on the best mobility moves your body needs, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist today.