Stretching is known to have a ton of great benefits that help keep your joints and muscles active. No matter your age or how physical your job may be, stretching is something everybody should do. When we think about stretching, we often think of doing it before or after a workout to warm up or cool down our muscles, or even first thing in the morning when we stretch our arms in the air.
We are constantly doing little stretches throughout the day without even realizing it, which helps our muscles have better blood flow and circulation. In doing so, you will likely feel more comfortable and loosened up, which is great for before a workout or playing a sport.
Stretching can also increase flexibility and improve your mood by taking time to clear your mind and put your sole focus on the muscles you are stretching. In addition, this kind of flexibility exercise can help improve balance and posture. People who play sports and work out often can especially benefit from stretching as it can reduce the risk of injuries since your muscle group is warmed up.
There are many ways you can incorporate stretching into your daily or weekly routine. A popular method that many people enjoy is doing yoga, which is essentially a combination of stretching, meditation, and working out. However, there are so many ways you can personalize your stretching routine so that it benefits your lifestyle.
Now that we know some of the fantastic reasons we should stretch, we should consider a few things before beginning. First, before creating your stretching routine, you will need to figure out the best time for you to stretch, how often you want to stretch, and how long you should hold a stretch during your warm-up or cool-down routine or your regular stretching routine.
Once you have these details figured out, you can begin stretching and see how much it improves your average day and benefits each muscle group. Then, keep reading further to help determine your stretch routine so your mind and body can feel focused and take on the day.
When is the Best Time to Stretch?
There are certain times when stretching is important for the well-being of your joints and muscles, like before or after a workout. This allows your muscles to warm up and get the blood flowing or cool down after, which helps with muscle soreness the following day.
Before or after workouts and playing sports is one of the best times to stretch, but there isn’t just one best time. Anytime you have a few minutes is a great time for a stretch. Your body can never not benefit from a good stretch unless you already have a strained or sprained muscle, then using it and stretching it may make the strain worse.
A typical time people like to stretch is either in the morning as part of their waking up routine or in the evening, sometimes before bed. Stretching in the morning allows your body and mind to slowly wake up and gather the strength, energy, and ability to have a clear mind to focus on the day ahead of you. Stretching at night allows your muscles to wind down and relax and get one final pump of circulation before laying down for a full night’s sleep.
Flexibility-wise, people who usually prefer to stretch in the evenings will likely have an easier time with flexible stretches rather than if your routine is in the morning. This is because our muscles are naturally more open and flexible from being active throughout the day compared to stretching in the morning after your muscles have been relaxed for hours.
The best time for a stretching exercise will be different for everybody. Depending on what your workday looks like, if you work out or play sports every day, and how much time you want to set aside for stretching will determine the best time that you should be stretching.
How Often Should I Stretch?
The most important thing to remember is not to overstretch, which can happen. Prolonged stretching can actually do more harm than good and result in strained muscles and muscle soreness. Therefore, it is crucial to figure out your limits and only do what feels comfortable while avoiding prolonged stretching and muscle injury.
We recommend stretching for about 10 to 30 minutes once a day or about 3 to 4 times during the week. Your body should stretch for shorter amounts of time more often during the week than stretching for long periods once or twice throughout the week.
Your stretching exercise isn’t supposed to be an exhausting activity that takes hours; it should be an enjoyable and relaxing time throughout your day. You may find you have particular muscles that need more attention while stretching, so it is fine to stretch those muscles more often than others if that is what feels best for your body.
This could be common for people who play sports or work out every day or sit at a desk in the same position for hours. Depending on what your body goes through physically, every day will let you know how often you should be stretching. Even if you are short on time that day, a quick 5-minute stretch is better than nothing.
How Long Should I Hold the Stretches?
Lastly, everybody’s stretch routine will look a bit different depending on the types of stretches you do. Most stretches are easy to do and allow you to feel the stretch instantly; however, every person will have different stretches that work better for them.
There are a few different kinds of stretches, dynamic stretching and active stretching, that requires a movement to stretch the muscle fibers and get your blood flowing, and static stretching is a position that is held for a certain amount of time.
Research shows that holding your stretch anywhere from ten seconds to a minute is a substantial amount of time for you to feel the stretch and for it to be effective. Depending on the muscle group you stretch, you might find you immediately want to come out of a stretch, which signifies that those muscle fibers are tight and need to be stretched more. If you find the stretch comfortable and it feels good in that position, feel free to hold it a bit longer than 60 seconds.
We recommend static stretching for 15-second intervals, allowing your body to relax into the position and then release. Do this for 2 or 3 more 15-second intervals. Dynamic stretching and active stretching can be done for about the same amount of time or until you feel the stretch comfortably and alleviate muscle stiffness.
Since stretching doesn’t take up a lot of time, it is important to stretch out all the muscles in your body from head to toe. This includes your neck, shoulders, arms, back, chest, legs, and ankles. There are so many different stretches you can do for all your tight muscle areas.
Every person’s body will have different limits, and spending some time stretching is the only way to really figure out how long you should hold a stretch and in what ways a stretching exercise can benefit your body.