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Stretch Or Not?

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

From fitness enthusiasts to elite athletes, everyone believes in stretching the muscles before starting any workout session, and it has now become a common practice too. Gurjyot Kaur tells you why the practise of stretching before a workout is important

Known to improve flexibility, stretching has slowly become an important part of everyone’s exercise routine. However, there are people who skip the warm up or stretching exercises before working out. So, are these stretches really important before a workout and how do they impact our exercise routine? Prameet Kotak, holistic wellness expert, says, “Dynamic stretches, static stretches, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) and yoga are several pre workout stretches, but none are that effective, unfortunately! There is no adequate research that proves whether stretches work or not, but there is evidence that functional movements work, and it works better than stretches.”

Stretching not only reduces muscle tension, but it also makes the body feel more relaxed. However, it should be avoided if you’re suffering from bone fracture or experience any joint pain. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start stretching.

BEAR IN MIND

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney found that stretching does not prevent soreness from occurring after exercise.

Prameet says, “In a muscle that is not conditioned, stretching can cause it to weaken further and stretching a muscle in between a heavy strength training session can cause the muscle to relax and this might hamper the next set. Though stretching can make the workout easier, it’s not always beneficial, especially static stretching which involves stretching a muscle at a given length for a particular period, as this may cause injury while stretching.  

Liezel Holdt, senior assistant trainer at Prosport Fitness Centre, says, “Keep in mind that over stretching is a real thing and one needs to make sure that the stretching being done is at the right time and in a correct manner. You can use dynamic (while moving) or static stretching (while stationary). Make it sport or activity specific to reap the rewards.”

WARM UP FIRST

Warm up is a vital component of exercise, but is often neglected by many. You must always perform your warm up routine before beginning with stretching the muscles. Ayaz Khan, fitness expert and personal trainer, tells us, “Stretching is very important before you hit the gym. But before you do your stretches, it’s important that you warm up first. Warm ups and stretches help to raise your body temperature and the body muscles get ready for the exercises, which prevents injuries. When you warm up, your heart rate increases, which allows more blood and oxygen to flow to your muscles. The increase in oxygen levels helps the body burn more fat for energy. After warm-ups it’s time for stretches. As your muscles are warm, stretching will help you get better flexibility, posture and coordination, which ultimately helps you, avoid injuries. Make sure you don’t overdo your stretches. Hold your stretches for 20 to 30 seconds and stop it as soon as you start to feel the pain. Make sure that you stretch both sides of the body equally and focus on your breathing to allow more oxygen to flow to the body.”

HOW IT HELPS                                       

Stretching is a wonderful way to start exercising as it promotes blood circulation, reduces the risk of back problems and in females, it helps in reducing the severity of painful menstruation. Dr. Imran S. A. Ansari, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Ansari’s Orthopaedic Clinic, says, “Dynamic stretches increase the temperature of your body. Signals from the brain are sent to the muscles and tissues, which prepare them for the following workout by increasing the blood flow to the required muscles. Dynamic stretches can be done by mimicking the activity just before the work out as they help in improving the flexibility and range of motion. This in turn improves the intensity and duration of your performance, unlike static stretches which can deteriorate your performance during the workout as per recent researches. They also improve your overall performance in the workout and help you to gain maximum benefits and prevent musculoskeletal injuries.”

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