Move: The Importance of Stretching and How to Start

By Curves


The Importance of Stretching and How to Start

When we think of the benefits of exercise and why we go to Curves to sweat it out during our full body workout, the first things that come to mind are probably cardio and strength. But an equally important component to a comprehensive exercise routine often gets pushed aside: stretching. You may not feel like you’re getting the same benefits that come from sweating it out on the circuit but stretching does lots of good things for your body. Next time you’re tempted to skip the stretching phase of your whole body workout, remember these unique stretching benefits:2

Stretching Makes You More Flexible

Up there with cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and endurance, flexibility is one of the five main components of fitness. As we get older, we naturally lose some of our flexibility, which makes us more likely to get injured. Better flexibility can also improve your performance during your Curves full body workout, help your joints move through their full range of motion; assist your muscles in performing at their best; and increase blood flow. By stretching, you can keep your body more limber and injury-free.

Stretching Feels Good

As you cool down from a tough workout, it feels really good to stretch each of your major muscle groups. Stretching after you exercise can help prolong the benefits of your cardio and strength training workout, assisting with lowering your heart rate and breathing to your pre-workout normal. Stretched muscles hold less tension, which makes them better able to use oxygen and essential nutrients. Plus, relaxed muscles help you feel calmer and less stressed.3

Stretching Helps Prevent Low Back Pain

As we get older, many women start to experience pain and tightness in their lower backs. By stretching, you can improve flexibility in your hip flexors, hamstrings, and the muscles attached to your pelvis, which will relieve stress on your lumbar spine and help stave off lower-back pain.3

Stretching Helps You Stand Up Straight

When you stretch the muscles in your lower back, it helps your shoulders and chest keep your back in better alignment, improving your posture.3

So, now that you know all the good things stretching does for your body, here are some tips on how to stretch properly:

Don’t Stretch Cold Muscles

If you go right into a stretching session without warming your muscles with some movement first, you’ll risk an injury. Start with some light jogging, walking, or biking for five or 10 minutes before you stretch. Or, save the stretching for after your full body workout, when your muscles are really warm.

Stretch All Your Major Muscle Groups

For a comprehensive stretching session as part of your workout plan, stretch all the muscles and joints you routinely use, both in your everyday life and in the Curves circuit. These include your thighs, hips, lower back, calves, neck, and shoulders.1

Always Stretch Both Sides

Any imbalance in muscle flexibility will put you at risk for injury. If you stretch a muscle on one side, make sure you stretch the same muscle on the other side, too. For example, if you stretch one hamstring, stretch the other for the same amount of time.1

Don’t Overstretch

You should feel a little tension in your muscles as you stretch them, but you should not feel pain. If a stretch hurts, you’re pushing the muscle too far.1

Hold, Don’t Bounce

Stretch your muscles in a smooth movement, holding each stretch for about 30 seconds. Avoid bouncing, which can make muscles tighter. If you have any muscles that are particularly tight, stretch them for 60 seconds.1

Make Time for Stretching

Stretching is just as important as the most intense parts of your exercise routine. For best results, stretch every time you do your whole body workout, or ideally, at least three times a week.2

Remember, your full body workout isn’t complete without stretching. Along with strength and cardio, stretching should be high on your list of fitness relationship goals.2

1 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

2 The American Council on Exercise

3 The American Council on Exercise