Why is stretching important?
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Stretching is important because it helps you maintain your flexibility and range of motion in your joints. If you don't stretch your muscles and connective tissue around the muscle, it will adaptively shorten. When you stretch the muscle, fibers and connective tissue elongate allowing the stretched muscles to become longer. This will help prevent stiffness and discomfort in the joints and hopefully keep you agile and active throughout your life.

National Athletic Trainers' Association
Administration Specialist

Stretching causes your muscle to increase in elasticity and slightly warms the tissue. These changes may lower your chances of straining or pulling a muscle and will increase your overall flexibility. Over time, regular stretching can decrease your chances of developing a chronic injury due to poor form and posture.

This answer provided for NATA by the Washington State University Athletic Training Education Program.

Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life
Physiology Specialist

Stretching, as you probably already know, can help improve flexibility. When we talk about flexibility, we’re referring to the muscles’ and joints’ ability to give and move more freely. Although there’s some debate as to what stretching can or can’t do—Can it prevent soreness? Protect against injury?—I think it can help prevent stiffness that can make going about your day-to-day life uncomfortable. Plus, it feels really good to take a few moments to renew yourself and reflect on a workout session, and stretching is the perfect way to do that.

In today’s society, with our current sedentary lifestyle, stretching is an imperative component of exercise. Too many people are de-conditioned from extended periods of sitting—due to driving, working or watching t.v. and playing video games—that to go straight into a strenuous workout without stretching first, would a) be challenging, and b) potentially lead to injury.

Stretching elongates your muscles and restores them back to their proper alignment, which increases your flexibility and mobility, allowing for greater movement and performance through the rest of your workout. In addition, it feels great—that, in itself, should be a sufficient incentive!

Joel Harper - Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

I am an enormous believer in stretching. There are 3 types of stretches: passive, active and resistent. I use all 3 of these with my private clients. Passive you can do when you are not warmed up, active and resistant you have to be warmed up. I always start a routine with a couple of passive stretches to see where my clients body is that day and how out of balanced they are. Since everyday we carry tension in different places. Then, as we exercise, I do stretches to open the muscles back up after we have burned them out. This enables you to balance your body out, elongate your muscles and allow you to leave a workout feeling tension-free and energized. I have seen so many positive results from showing someone how to stretch properly. All stretching should feel good, you never want to go to where the muscles lock up. Think of stretching as massaging the muscles from the inside out.
 
 

Stretching is a key component to any exercise program. Stretching not only improves the flexibility of our muscles, but it helps increase the range of motion of our joints. When our muscles are more flexible, the body can perform activities and exercise with the correct form. This helps to prevent injury, as well. Some key things to remember when stretching:

  • Warm-up first! Cold muscle don't stretch effectively.
  • Try to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • Stretching should be pain-free.



 

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Fitness Specialist

While there may be some debate about whether to stretch, I, as a professional, look to science and current research to clear up the confusion surrounding stretching. Research has shown that muscles adapt to the demands placed on them. If a muscle is overused, it can become shortened. Muscles work in pairs around a joint. If one muscle becomes short, this can create an imbalance with the opposing muscle, which may become long. Let's use the hips as an example. The hip flexors (muscles that flex the hip) can become tight on individuals who sit for long periods throughout the day. Day after day, these muscles become overused and tight. The opposing muscles, the glutes (muscles that extend the hip), become lengthened.

This imbalance changes the way the hips move, altering overall movement throughout the entire body. (The joints work together as a chain. If one link in the chain is not working correctly, they all suffer.) Given this, I look at flexibility a bit differently than those who hold more traditional views about stretching. Changes in muscle lengths can create changes in overall movement, limiting our potential strength and performance increases, and increasing our chance of getting injured. Therefore, I believe in individualized flexibility programs that incorporate stretching (both static and dynamic) as well as releasing knots in muscle tissue (myofascial release) and muscle-activation exercises to get long, weak muscles, to fire correctly.

I take an integrated approach to flexibility, combining stretching and strengthening to increase and enhance movement. These two components must be done together to create muscular balance around the joints. Simply stated, to get back in balance, you have to lengthen one side and shorten the other. Using the example of the hips once again, if the hip flexors are tight, you need to relax and lengthen them, while on the opposite side, you need to strengthen or shorten the glutes. This powerful combination enhances movement, increases range of motion and will help you get the most out of your muscles! To summarize, it is important to correct muscle imbalances.

National Academy of Sports Medicine
Administration Specialist

Stretching is the most under-rated element of optimum function and performance.

There are many elements of an exercise program, however, the most overlooked component is usually the stretching or flexibility portion of a routine.

  • Stretching improves flexibility allowing for restoration of muscle length and increases in range of motion.
  • Stretching can help to alleviate joint and muscle pain as well as improve strength, power, performance and overall function by allowing the body to maximally activate muscles from their optimal length.

Think of a rubber band being stretched back. The more you can stretch it, the more potential it has for power. The body's muscles function in much the same manner. There are various types of stretching, and when you are stretching (pre-, post- or independent of exercise) should dictate the type of stretching you do.

  • Pre-Exercise: Perform Dynamic Stretches 
  • Post-Exercise: Perform Static Stretches
Dr. Steven E. Horan, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

In this video, Steve Horan, MD, with Orthopaedic Physicians of Colorado, describes how important stretching is, especially as it helps your body respond to stressors.

Chris Powell
Fitness Specialist

Stretching is important because our muscles get tight and stiff, and they need to be lengthened and opened up—especially before an intense workout. In this video, I will explain why stretching is key to avoiding injury. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.