A balanced exercise routine includes
training, and stretching. Stretching not only feels good, but may help prevent
It's important to warm up your body before any physical activity. Warming up for
about 5–10 minutes goes a long way toward preparing the body for exercise.
increases your heart rate and respiratory rate
increases muscle temperature
boosts the amount of blood and oxygen delivered to your muscles
prepares the body for a workout
A warm-up can even be the activity you are about to do but at a slower pace. For
example, if you're about to go for a run,
warm up with walking or a light jog. If you're going to go for a swim,
do a couple of slow warm-up laps. If you play a sport, focus on the muscles that are
used for your particular sport. For instance, if you play baseball,
you might warm up your shoulder with light throwing.
uses many muscle groups in a sport specific manner and can be part of your warm-up.
Besides warming up the muscles that will be used in the activity, dynamic stretching
allows for full range of motion of the joints.
Stretching the Right Way
Stretching used to be considered the main activity before a workout. But traditional,
or "static," stretching may lead to decreased muscle strength and performance,
especially if your muscles are not warmed up enough. Stretching cold muscles can lead
To get the most out of warming up and stretching, try dynamic stretches before
and static stretching after a workout.
Stretching properly may reduce muscle injuries and improve athletic performance.
It also increases:
joint range and motion
blood flow to muscles
Here are some tips on how to stretch properly:
Stop if it hurts. Stretching should never hurt. If you have reached
a point in your stretch where it hurts, pull back to where you still feel a stretch
but can hold the stretch comfortably.
Hold each stretch for 10–30 seconds. Holding a stretch for any
less won't sufficiently lengthen the muscle. Holding a stretch too long may overstretch
muscles. Overstretching may cause injury and decrease performance. Stretch the muscles
slowly and don't force it.
Don't bounce. Bouncing while stretching may injure the muscle
Remember to breathe. Don't hold your breath when you stretch.
Inhale slowly and relax into the stretch as you breathe out.
Stretch both sides. You may be more flexible on one side, but
try to do equal stretching on both sides. Big differences in flexibility may lead
Stretch regularly. To maintain flexibility, stretch at least 3
days a week.
You need to slow down your body after a workout or exercise. Do 5–10 minutes of
gentle movement and stretching to help your body recover from a workout.
Your cool-down routine should include gentle movement and stretching. Cooling down
and stretching at the end of a workout helps you to:
slow your heart rate and breathing
reduce the chance of feeling dizzy or lightheaded
relax and feel the benefits of your workout
Whether you're new to working out or a lifelong athlete, be sure to include a good
before-and-after routine for better performance and recovery.