The Importance of Stretching
People often underestimate the importance of stretching. Many assume that it is something only athletes do or an unimportant part of a workout. But stretching has many benefits and it should become part of your daily routine. Whether, you do it before going out the door to your daily tasks, during your work hours to move around or to unwind before bed.
According to Harvard School of Medicine, "Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way.
For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which inhibits walking. Likewise, when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched. Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury."
Where to start? With over 600 muscles, the idea of stretching them on a daily basis can seem overwhelming. But the area most critical are those for mobility. Hips, thighs, calves, feet, etc. If you spend many hours in front of a computer, stretching your neck, back, and shoulders is also beneficial. Aim for daily stretches or at least a program of 2-3 times per week for 10-15 minutes.
Always consult your doctor before starting a new regimen especially if you have any chronic conditions. A physical therapist can access your muscle strength and limitations and create a program tailored to your needs.
Stretching once won't magically make you flexible. You need to be consistent and committed. Tight and shortened muscles can take months to become flexible, so stick with a routine that works for you.
Here is a video for a basic full body stretch from my favorite fitness experts from YouTube to get started: