C an you easily fold yourself in half and touch your toes? Or maybe you are the sort who can only get fingertips to lower shins. Doesn’t matter — people come in all shapes and sizes and their respective levels of flexibility can vary greatly. Some may be as elastic as rubber bands, while others may be restricted through lack of exercise, previous injury, or genetics. Regardless, we can all improve from where we start. What is important is to stretch to what is appropriate for your ability.
Whether you’re stretching in bed when you wake up or during a yoga class, there are many different methods of stretching. Who knew? Some of the most common methods of stretching are:
- Static: When you stretch a muscle or joint for 10 or more seconds in a position that’s minimally challenging, letting the body part elongate on its own. These are good stretches to do after a workout.
- Dynamic: Stretching during controlled movements. These stretches increase blood flow, increase range of motion, and improve athletic performances. They’re great for warming up before a workout.
- Ballistic: This is a stretch, which requires extra force and is often used to improve flexibility in athletes. It involves quick jerking or bouncing motions intended to quickly loosen muscles.
- PNF: PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation and is also known as “partner stretching” because two people are needed to perform the movements. This type relies on stretching a muscle to its limit and is most commonly used in clinical or fitness settings for training or rehabilitation.
Stretching is an important part of both physical and mental fitness and provides a multitude of benefits. For example, extending your muscles before a workout can enhance performance and help prevent injury. After a workout, when the muscles are warm and fatigued, stretching can help eliminate soreness and encourage muscles to retain flexibility gains made. So what else makes stretching so great? Here are just a few other benefits that come with stretching:
- Reduce stress
- Reinforce the mind/body connection
- Increase blood flow to muscles, tendons, and joints
- Improve balance
- Reduce tension
- Improve posture
- Improve coordination
- Reduce risk of injury, especially to the lower back
- Help avoid soreness and tightness
Whether it’s when you first wake up, or before and after a workout, make sure to incorporate stretching into your daily routine. It not only feels great, but it’s an important part of living a life that’s healthy and fit!