“As humans, we sit a lot,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare athletic trainer Laurel Pollock. “This shortens and weakens our hip flexors, resulting in low back stress.” Stretching is crucial to combating these negative effects on our bodies as well as improving our performance during physical activity. Skipping stretching may seem like a time-saver during a workout, but it’s actually a detriment to your fitness goals. “A lot of our physical troubles are related to weakness and a lack of flexibility,” she continues. By incorporating active stretching, you build strength and range of motion, both key elements to enhancing physical ability.
- Stretching works to elongate muscle fibers, which increases flexibility, range of motion and blood flow to your muscles.
- Elongating and strengthening the muscles lessens your risk for joint pain, strain, stress fractures and muscle damage.
- Stretching can provide tension relief by releasing muscles that have tightened in response to physical and emotional stress.
“I’m a proponent of an active warm-up and static stretching post-workout,” says Pollock. Begin a workout by moving and engaging your muscles for a minimum of five minutes to build range of motion. After your workout, hold static stretches for a minimum of 90 seconds to encourage the muscle to release and lengthen. To really see results, Pollock encourages a regular stretching routine five days a week.
Photographs by Kit MacAvoy