It’s been an age-old question for a lot longer than I’ve been around, and still, the answer is only as good as the opinion of the person answering. But it’s not quite as black-and-white as a straightforward yes or no. I’ve spent the last week finding out it’s not just the why but the how and when that promises to answer the question for you.
So what do I get from stretching anyway? You mean apart from the flexibility of a Yoga Instructor? The benefits you look to gain from even 5 minutes a day should be enough to get you up and reaching for your toes: decreased chances of injury (or aiding repair from injury) or reduced joint and muscle soreness are at the top of my list as well as increased performance. Stretching can also help you to stress less, that’s right, as it helps relieve the tension from tight muscles and also improved balance are to name just a few.
Also, did you know there are different types of stretching? (No, I don’t mean upper and lower body- we’re not keeping it that simple!) I’m talking about static stretches, dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching and developmental stretching.
Static stretching is probably the most commonly known type of stretch, the old “stretch-and-hold” method that we’ve been doing since school sports. Although timings for this method are still very much varied from around 10-12 seconds up to 30 seconds each stretch. Something I learned researching for this post as well, static stretching dulls the nervous system (beneficial if you’re working out and getting sore).
Dynamic stretching is better for helping mobilise the joints as well as stretching the muscles, examples of these would be leg swings and arm circles. This added movement to the stretches will raise the temperature of your muscles and prepare your nervous system for any other dynamic work (lifting, running, etc).
Ballistic Stretching is more commonly used by people like dancers and involves more swinging and bouncing type movements.
Developmental stretching would be a sub-category of static stretches. It’s quite literally to help you develop a stretch better. One example would be people with a typical desk job. Being sat down all day, the hamstrings are contracted and get tight. Using a developmental stretch (holding the stretch for longer) can help increase the flexibility of the hamstrings.
There was an article written on The Mayo Clinic website about stretching that had this to say about its benefits:
Benefits of stretching
Studies about the benefits of stretching have had mixed results. Some show that stretching helps. Other studies show that stretching before or after exercise has little to no benefit.
Doesn’t seem too helpful does it? But if we apply the different types of stretching at different times then surely we’re going to get different results. Like how applying dynamic stretching would be better before you start a run or workout as it will fire-up your nervous system, mobilise your joints and raise the temperature of your muscles, or how static stretching would be best for in-between sets or at the end of a run to help reduce the aches and pains.
Easy way to remember it: do the active stuff (dynamic) before you start the activity and when you’ve stopped (or are static) do the static stuff.
Like the meerkat said, seemples!
There are, as always, some things to take note of and be cautious about. For instance you should only stretch the muscle up to a point of discomfort and not until it hurts- that’s why they call it a stretch and not a tear. Be sure to check your posture as you stretch too, slouching will make a lot of stretches inefficient (and is just bad anyway). Also, overdoing any of these stretches can increase the likelihood of soreness, tears and other injuries.
So… Stretching, do I really need to do it? It’s no more decided than when the debate started but I would say overall, yes, yes you should.
Thanks for stopping by again, I hope you’re enjoying my Health & Fitness Fridays. If you are be sure to leave a like and a comment. See you next week!
Stay loose and limber 😉