Stretching an Important Part of Fitness 01/08/2002
Stretching is a misunderstood aspect of a physical fitness program. Stretching improves flexibility, enhances athletic performance and daily activities and relieves muscle tension and stiffness.
Try these tips for safe and effective stretching:
Frequency – Three times a week is a minimum recommendation for stretching to maintain flexibility. A good time to do it is after a bath or shower, when muscles are warm. A stretching session should last 10 to 20 minutes.
Time – Hold a stretch for at least 10 seconds, but not longer than 30 seconds unless you have been instructed by a health professional to do so. If you cannot hold for 30 seconds initially, build up to it. Repeat each stretch about four times.
Technique – Avoid stretching until you hurt. If you feel pain, stop. Then begin the stretch again without going as far. You should feel resistance, but not pain. Move into it slowly and gradually without bouncing. Breathe deeply while you stretch, instead of holding your breath.
Before and after – Stretching before exercise will help you avoid injury and improve your performance. Stretch afterwards to keep muscles from tightening up.