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What You Should Know About Stretching, Warming Up

There is a process to exercising, a process that is often misunderstood by most. Time to clear it up as it relates to stretching and warming up.

Some facts on this:

1. They are not the same. Some people believe that stretching and warming up are more or less the same. They’re not. Warming up is designed to prepare an individual for the demands of the physical activity that follows. As such, a few minutes of engaging in low-intensity whole-body exercise (e.g., jogging in place) can be an appropriate warm-up. Warming up should always precede stretching because stretching cold muscles can result in an injury to the affected musculature.

2. Mixed Results. Studies that have attempted to identify the benefits of stretching have produced inconclusive results. Some investigations have found that stretching can be quite helpful, whereas others have determined that minimal, if any, benefits occur. However, advocates of stretching promote several positive by-products of this particular form of exercising, including increased range of motion in the joints, improved muscular coordination, reduced level of muscle tissue tension and enhanced level of blood circulation to various parts of the body.

3. On Target. When individuals stretch, they should focus on the major muscles and joints in their body (e.g., legs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders)–the ones that likely will be involved in the activity that follows. It also is important for a stretching regimen to be bilateral. Both sides of the body should be stretched.

4. JERKY CONSEQUENCES. Stretching exercises should be performed slowly and smoothly. Stretching exercises done in a bouncing manner can be counterproductive. Not only can undue stress be placed on the joint(s), small tears in the muscle(s) also can occur. Furthermore, because these tears can leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which will tighten the muscle even further, the net result can be that the exerciser will wind up less flexible and more prone to pain.

5. ABSTAIN FROM PAIN. Although exercising should not be painful, stretching may cause some individuals to experience a degree of muscle soreness for a few days. Pain, on the other hand, is a signal that a person has stretched too far. The underlying expectation while stretching should be to feel tension, rather than pain, in the involved muscles and connective tissues.

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