As a notorious gym rat and exercise addict, I have always been a habitual stretcher. Even though I swear by stretching multiple times a day, there’s a lot of conspiracy that revolves around stretching. You might be a strong believer that stretching before a workout is vital, your best friend may swear that all she needs is one yoga class a week and your brother might think that stretching is altogether useless and mock you for making it a part of your exercise routine.

So who is right? What is the right way to stretch, or does it even matter? It turns out that it really depends on what type of stretching you’re doing and for what purpose.

Benefits of Stretching

Photo by Natalie Choy

We’re all aware of the obvious and well-known benefits of stretching. Stretching regularly increases your flexibility and improves your range of motion. What a lot of people don’t realize is that satisfactory flexibility and range of motion are actually crucial to a healthy body. As our bodies age, muscles tend to become a lot tighter, causing movement to become less fluid. This leads to an increase in susceptibility to muscle injuries.

Furthermore, stretching will help boost your circulation. An increased blood circulation brings nutrients to the cells in your body and helps remove waste byproducts. Providing even more help to your organs, stretching helps to maintain good posture. Poor posture can reek havoc on your internal organs, but stretching the muscles in your lower back can make poor posture easily avoidable.

Going even further than just your physical body, stretching has also been known to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Different Types of Stretching

Photo by Kate Spitler

Stretching is clearly a valuable practice for the human body. However, it is true that stretching can be less than effective if not done properly. It is important to practice stretching that is accustomed to your needs.

Typically, stretches are considered either dynamic or static. A dynamic stretch is a moving stretch while a static stretch is a stationary one. Both dynamic and static stretching are important to include in your stretching routine but each has their own benefits. When deciding which type of stretching to practice, you have to consider the reason you are stretching.

Dynamic stretching is currently considered the best way to maximize performance levels and warm up your muscles before exercise. Before engaging in any rigorous physical activity, it is important to increase the core temperature of your muscles. The motion required to complete dynamic stretching will increase your heart rate and achieve this. It also suggested that dynamic stretching overall will better mentally prepare you for your workout.

On the opposing end, static stretching is most beneficial to do after your workout. Stationary stretching, on the other hand, takes place after a workout. It allows the heart rate to slow back down to its normal rate. Static stretching also promotes relaxation more than dynamic, which is why it is best to do after a workout rather than before. Static stretching is also most beneficial to relieve aches and pains, as dynamic stretching can further irritate the muscle tissue.

Overall, stretching is a beneficial and essential practice for everyone. Whether you are one of the many couch potatoes of the world or an Olympic athlete, the benefits of stretching are too important to dismiss.