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Stretching made easy

As more and more people add exercise to their daily routines, the need for proper injury prevention information is vital. Warm-up and cool-down stretching is a critical part of the injury prevention regimen. Stretching is easy, but when it's done incorrectly it can actually do more harm than good. For this reason, it's essential to practice the right techniques. Tailored to your level of flexibility and activity, the key for affective stretching is regularity and relaxation.

The object of stretching is to:

  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Iincrease range of motion
  • Prevent injuries
  • Prepare you for activity

Everyone can learn to stretch, regardless of age or flexibility. Stretching should always be a part of your warm-up and cool-down routine; however, it can also be performed throughout the day. For example:

  • In the morning, before the start of your day
  • At work, to release nervous tension
  • After sitting or standing for a long time
  • When you feel stiff
  • When watching TV, listening to music, reading, sitting, or talking on the phone

When you begin, spend 20 to 30 seconds in an easy stretch. No bouncing!

  • Go to the point where you feel mild tension
  • Never stretch to the point of pain
  • Relax as you hold the stretch

The feeling of tension should subside as you hold the position. If it doesn't, ease off slightly and find a degree of tension that's comfortable. When you feel the tension subside, move a bit further until you again feel mild tension, hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times. Remember that stretching reduces muscular tightness and increases flexibility. As you stretch, your breathing should be slow and under control, do not hold your breath.

To gain benefits from stretching, this activity must be done consistently and practiced on a regular basis. There is no quick or easy fix for increasing flexibility; it just takes persistence and discipline. By doing so, you will be able to develop your own personal potential and gradually build a foundation of fitness that will last a lifetime.

For additional questions on stretching, other sports medicine topics or to schedule a FREE Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at (414) 219-7776 or (800) 219-7776.