Stretching is an often overlooked yet vital component of any fitness routine or lifestyle routine. The truth is most of us are guilty of not stretching enough. Stretching increases muscle flexibility & length, which increases the range of motion of joints. Muscles that are not at the proper length prohibit the joints from moving as they should, leading to muscle damage, strains, and joint pain.
When patients are nearing the end of physical therapy, some will ask, “when can I stop doing these stretches?” In reality, we should all be stretching once per day, or at least a few times a week. Note: It is recommended to do a dynamic warm-up before activity and static stretch after activity.4 In an ideal world where free time is bountiful, we would all regularly stretch each day.
If you begin to make stretching a daily habit or at least dedicate a few days each week to stretch, besides increased flexibility, you may notice some great benefits.
As you start to increase your muscle’s resting length, you should notice more range of motion in your joints. Ultimately, this allows your body to move more freely – with less restriction and pain.
If you are able to contract your muscle through its full range of motion, you will be able to recruit more muscle fibers during exercise, and therefore more optimally build strength through resistance exercises.
Routine stretching can decrease the stiffness of the muscles and increase blood flow to the area. Stretching for certain areas may also improve posture, which can ultimately help reduce pain.
As you begin to stretch more regularly, you may notice tight, or even painful areas. These feelings can be expected the first few times going through a stretching routine. However, if the pain continues or worsens with regular stretching, it may be time to seek a physical therapist.
Stretching can help promote increased blood flow throughout the body and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Reducing muscle tension with stretching can also help the whole body relax and feel more at ease. A 2013 randomized control trial revealed that workers who underwent a stretching routine at work showed reduced anxiety levels and overall better mental health.3
There is much debate about the optimal duration to hold a stretch. Thirty seconds seems to be widely accepted in much of the research, so this is the number I tell my patients. Three repetitions of these 30-second holds are my personal go-to. Also, try not to bounce, as this can lead to injury. Moreover, you do not have to stretch to maximum muscle length. Instead, try stretching to a medium-level hold (rated 6 out of 10, with 10 being the most intense stretch possible). A medium-level stretch reduces the risk of injury, discourages the body from “muscle guarding,” and simply feels better, making people more likely to stretch in the future. You can still increase your muscle length with a medium, sub-maximal stretch.
Although stretching is very beneficial, it will not fix your issues overnight. To see actual long-term benefits, you will need to remain consistent with stretching (3-7 days a week). It can take weeks or months to achieve the results you are looking for.
If you are unsure where to begin with your stretching routine, or feel pain as you start to stretch, one of our many nearby clinicians can offer a Free Assessment. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. The importance of stretching. Harvard Health. (2022, March 14). Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching
2. Winderl, A. M. (2021, June 10). 9 benefits of stretching that will convince you to do it daily. The Healthy. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.thehealthy.com/exercise/benefits-of-stretching/
3. Montero-Marín J;Asún S;Estrada-Marcén N;Romero R;Asún R; (n.d.).[effectiveness of a stretching program on anxiety levels of workers in a logistic platform: A randomized controlled study].Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23764394/
4. Whittington, B. (2018, June 26).Stretching vs. warming up: What’s the difference? Athletico. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.athletico.com/2016/09/27/stretching-vs-warming-whats-difference/