Stretching.  We all intuitively know we need to do it.  And yet, when asked how often one stretches, a very common response is:  “Not as much as I should.”  To understand this phenomenon, we will first examine the common barriers to performing a regular stretching/flexibility training routine.  Below are some of the commonly stated reasons (take note, as some reasons are because you can’t, while some are because you won’t).

“I don’t have time.”  

“Stretching is boring.”

“I don’t see the point.”

“I don’t know which ones to do.”

“I don’t know if the stretches I am doing are being done properly.”

“I don’t know how long I should hold my stretches for.”

In this blog article, I hope to address some of the reasons why you won’t stretch.  When I used to work as a personal fitness trainer, I often would encounter clients that had motivational challenges around stretching.  I often would tell them that there are two primary ‘motivators’ for engaging into a regular stretching routine:  One, because we deeply understand all the wonderful benefits that regular stretching will give us, or two, because we deeply understand all the unwanted, negative consequences of not doing it.  With that being said, below is a list of ‘the benefits of increased flexibility’ from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

Reduced muscle tension and increased relaxation0

-Ease of movement

-Improved coordination through greater ease of movement 

-Increased range of motion 

-Injury prevention

-Improvement and development of body awareness

-Improved circulation and air exchange

-Decreased muscle viscosity, causing contractions to be easier and smoother

-Decreased soreness associated with other exercise

(source:  ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer, 3rd Edition, p. 319)

Other common questions that arise around stretching are: “Do I need to warm up before I stretch?”, “How often should I stretch?” And, “How long should I hold my stretches for?”  To answer these questions, I will provide the ‘official’ general guidelines for achieving and maintaining flexibility from the ACSM:

Precede stretching with a warm-up to elevate muscle temperature

-Do a static stretching routine that exercises the major muscle tendon units that focuses on muscle groups (joints) that have reduced range of motion

-Perform a minimum of 2-3 days/week, ideally 5-7 days/week

-Stretch to the end of the range of motion at a point of tightness, without inducing discomfort

-Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds

-2-4 repetitions for each stretch 

(Source:  American College of Sports Medicine’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 7th Edition, p. 160)

Note here the recommended frequency of a stretching/flexibility routine.  In order to achieve and maintain flexibility, we need to stretch ideally 5-7 days per week and a bare minimum of 2-3 days per week.  If I were to guess, I would say the majority of the population does not even meet the bare minimum requirements!  It is no wonder then, why many people suffer from more muscle tension, more stiffness, and more potential injuries than would otherwise be necessary.  

If you are unsure of which specific stretches that you need to do, schedule a treatment with one of our Evolve practitioners!  And stay tuned for part 2 of this stretching, where the different types of stretching (static versus dynamic stretching) will be discussed.

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DISCLAIMER: These posts should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat any health, medical, physical or psychiatric condition. Information shared via posts does not replace professional healthcare advice specific to your condition and needs. If you are unsure whether you would benefit from implementing tools discussed in these posts, please contact your healthcare provider.