Sometimes just showing up at the gym or setting out for a run is work in itself it. And while props to us all who stay committed to our healthy lifestyles even on days when we don’t want to, we might find ways to take short cuts and just get a quick workout in. That might mean skipping the time dedicated to stretching.

So why is stretching so important?

Some studies found that stretching could prevent injury. That’s because stretching helps warm up the muscles and makes them reach their full range of motion in resolution to their associated joints.

It also helps allow muscles to reach their full potential. Say you are dropping it down for a squat, you may be able to engage your glutes even more and really drop it low if you stretched your hamstrings, quads and loosened up your hips.

Stretching could mean you are now more flexible to properly complete whatever fitness regime you are about to do.

It can also get the blood flowing before a cardio intensive exercise like running. Yet many runners opt not to stretch since there are other studies that show stretching can cause injury. It may be best to warm up in other ways like a slow jog or jumping jacks instead of by stretching “cold” muscles.

Getting a good stretch in is something many are lazy about doing, but it could be because people don’t know when is the best to time do so.

Should you stretch before or after a workout?

It might be best to stretch before certain activities like weight lifting for benefits like flexibility, better posture and better balance.

You could also stretch again afterwards to loosen up tight muscles after weights.

Save stretching after cardio activities until afterwards as a way to cool down and relax the muscles. Studies found that stretching after a workout doesn’t reduce soreness, so look at it as a way to stay limber and keep hips and legs strong.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching all major muscles groups two times a week at minimum for 60 seconds per exercise. Just make sure you don’t overstretch to the point where it hurts, or bounce during your pose.

Do you frequently stretch? Is it before or after your workout, and what is your favorite stretch?

Photo: Earl McGehee | Flickr

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