Done correctly, stretching can support your fitness regimen.
Until recently, experts believed that stretching before a workout “warmed up” our muscles and prepared us for exercise. But recent research shows that this actually isn’t the case: In fact, it might have the opposite effect.
Instead, scientists suggest to warm up our muscles before we stretch—and that could be anything from 5 minutes of moderate activity to a full workout. The bottom line is to prioritize stretching for after activity, when your muscle fibers are more pliable. Studies show that over time, stretching might be able to help with supporting connective tissue and range of motion.* (3,4)
Stretching might be a good way to release tension.
The mind-body connection is a fascinating thing—often we express our emotional state in physical ways, without even being fully aware. (You may notice, for example, that your stress often manifests as jaw tension or tightness in your neck or shoulders.) (5)
On the flip side, there’s evidence to suggest that when we take steps to help our body relax, our mind might follow. Scientists have found that yoga, for example, may help facilitate relaxation and support overall wellbeing. Pro tip: When things are heating up at work, consider taking a 5-minute breather to stretch things out.* (6)
(Just remember to work with a pro if you aren’t sure where to start.)
As with any change to your physical routine, consulting your doc and/or a fitness professional is always a good idea—especially if you’re wondering which stretches can best serve your needs. A physical therapist can help address certain limitations you’re trying to work through, or maybe you’ll opt for a beginner’s yoga class if you’re cool with a more generalized approach. The bottom line: As with any lasting habit, your best bet is starting small.*
- Edward R. Laskowski, M. D. (2018, May 8). Sitting risks… too much sitting? Retrieved from Mayo Clinic
- Hagen, I., & Nayar, U. S. (2014). Yoga for Children… Potentials of Yoga. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00035
- Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). The importance of stretching. Retrieved from Harvard
- Jammes, Y. (2018). Faculty of 1000 evaluation for Daily muscle stretching…skeletal muscle. F1000 - Post-Publication Peer Review of the Biomedical Literature. doi: 10.3410/f.732995210.793546343
- Wieckiewicz, M., Paradowska-Stolarz, A., & Wieckiewicz, W. (2014). Psychosocial Aspects of Bruxism:… BioMed Research International, 2014, 1–7. doi: 10.1155/2014/469187
- Büssing, A., Michalsen, A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Telles, S., & Sherman, K. J. (2012). Effects of Yoga…A Short Summary of Reviews. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1–7. doi: 10.1155/2012/165410