Exercising is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. It aids in weight loss, boosts immune health and even helps relieve stress. Whether you choose to run outside, hop on the treadmill or bike your way to a healthier you, you're using lots of muscles and tendons in your body in order to do so. This is why you need to check something off of your list both before and after you've finished breaking a sweat: stretching. Your exercise regimen isn't complete without it. Here are a few reasons why you should schedule a few minutes to the beginning and end of your workout:
Before your workout
Stretching out your muscles helps to boost circulation and even improve the elasticity of the muscles. It will give you better range of motion, flexibility and muscle control. By stretching, you're increasing the flow of oxygen to your muscles, which prevents things like cramps, aches and pains that show up and slow down your workout. If you're someone who tends to not get through a workout without feeling a little bit of discomfort, try stretching for at least 15 minutes beforehand – this can lead to improvements in the flow of oxygen, helping to rid your body of those aches and pains.
You muscles also benefit a whole lot from a little bit of stretching before physical activity. This act not only alleviates tight muscles, giving you better range of motion throughout your workout and helping to prevent injury – it also nourishes your muscles. Stretching promotes circulation, and without proper circulation, your muscles may not be getting enough blood and oxygen.
A study by Arnold Nelson, an associate professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, found that stretching regularly before a workout does more than just increase range of motion – it may actually enhance performance, helping to make people stronger and even increase their endurance. Nelson explained that stretching affects muscles in a similar way that strength training does – it's believed to activate some of the same things in the cell that exercise activates.
After your workout
Your exercise regimen isn't quite complete before stretching out all your muscles. As you break a sweat, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, which is what causes you to feel sore the next day. By stretching after you're done, you can help alleviate that soreness and recover faster from an intense workout. And if you're not sore the next day, you're less likely to skip a workout!
Exercises to try out before and after your workout
People should try to stretch all the major muscle groups to prevent any potential injury. Here are a few stretches to try out:
The seated straddle: Sit with your feet outstretched in front of you in the shape of a V. Slide your arms down your left leg toward your ankle, keeping the leg straight. You should feel a stretch in your hamstring. Switch to the other side.
The butterfly: This exercise stretches out your hips and lower back. Sit upright with the bottom of your feet touching and your knees out to the side. Bend forward over your feet and stretch the arms out in front of you to feel a lengthening spine.
The bicep stretch: Sitting upright, bring one arm across your chest, pulling it in with your other arm. You should feel a stretch in your bicep. Switch to the other arm.