Stretching Offers More than Flexibility
We have all heard that stretching is one of the essential components of fitness. But many of us continue to avoid the flexibility part of our workouts. Not only does stretching reduce risks of injury during physical activity, but it helps prevents post-exercise muscle soreness, otherwise known as DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).
A recent study done at Louisiana State University showed that stretching could possibly make people stronger as well as help to increase their endurance. Researchers believe that stretching works muscles in a method very similar to strength training, but on a very smaller level. It is also being suggested that stretching stimulates cells in a way that is similar to other types of exercise.
“Stretching appears to do more than just increase range of motion,” says study author Arnold Nelson, an associate professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University
The study involved a group of participants that did not stretch and a group that stretched for 40 minutes, a few times a week. Not surprisingly, those on the stretching program improved their flexibility, demonstrated by an average 18 percent increase in the distance they could reach during stretching, according to findings published in the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, a journal of the ACSM.
The question of when to stretch still raises some controversy. Overwhelming research concludes that pre-exercise stretching, especially for those who do not use short bursts of muscular activity, may result in a reduction in performance. As a result, trainers usually recommend stretching at the end of a workout, when the muscles are already warm. Other athletes, such as runners and hockey players continue to stretch both before and after exercise, attempting to reduce injuries and increase their performance.
If you don’t have an extra two hours a week to dedicate for stretching, then you should include a stretching element in your fitness routine that targets all your major muscles, or hit up a yoga class once a week.