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Ask The Expert: How important is stretching?

importance of stretchingIt can be hard for busy moms to fit stretching into their routines. We sat down with Janelle Dye, fitness supervisor at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center, to get answers to common questions women have about stretching.

  1.  How often should the average adult be stretching? American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends stretching activities two days per week, minimum, for the average adult.  Now, keep in mind that is the minimum. This really does depend on each individual, and their needs.  For some, even daily may be best.
  2. What are the main stretches you recommend for the average adult? This, again, is dependent on each individual, but there are some muscles that are commonly tight. A few muscles that may need some extra attention include the hamstrings, hip flexors, pectoral muscles, and upper back muscles (particularly the trapezius).  These muscles become tight often when seated for long durations each day and/or from poor posture.
  3. Why is stretching so important for health? There are several reasons why stretching is so important to one’s overall wellness. Injury prevention, maintaining proper posture, gaining or maintaining full range of motion in a joint and prevention of stiff muscles are a few. Most important, though, is mobility. Being able to perform activities of daily living (ADL) and stay moving through a lifetime encompasses all of the benefits of stretching.
  4. For folks who exercise on a regular basis, does it matter whether we stretch immediately before or after exercise or during the day whenever we get a chance? This is an on-going debate in the fitness world.  It will not cause harm to stretch before exercising, but it is best if the stretches executed are more of a dynamic warm-up, moving the muscles and joints through their full range of motion rather than static hold stretches.  Static hold techniques will work best when the muscles are warm, such as after exercise.
  5. Why do you think so many people skip out on stretching? Many times people are on a tight schedule, and have budgeted time for their workout or other activities, but not for their stretching activities. It often gets neglected. Another reason may be that individuals simply do not know what to do, or how to get the most out of stretching. To see or feel improvements in flexibility, a person needs to be consistent in their efforts.  Often when people do not see results quickly, they tend to stop trying. That could be a culprit as well.
  6. Anything else you’d like to add on the topic of stretching for health? Just a bit of advice in regards to stretching and flexibility:
  • Do not wait until an injury occurs to begin stretching regularly.
  • Anyone and everyone will benefit from participating in some type of stretching activity on a regular basis.
  • Find classes that involve lengthening of the muscles such as Yoga, Pilates, or other stretching modalities.
  • Participate in the activities with family and/or friends, as this will make it less likely to skip out on stretching.
  • If you ever have questions on flexibility and/or stretching, always speak with a professional on the matter. Some good sources include physical therapists and certified personal trainers.
janelle dye
Janelle Dye, fitness supervisor at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center

This post was sponsored by Saint Mary’s Fitness Center. 


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