Over the ages, professionals in the health and fitness world have debated about the importance of stretching for its impact on athletic performance – and more importantly, injury prevention. There are also varying theories about whether it is better to stretch before or after, or both. Depending on who you ask, it can be difficult to sift through the various opinions. But opinions are just that: opinions. It is important to get down to what the research says to understand the importance of stretching and whether you should or shouldn’t. When you consider the facts, our physical therapy in Mt. Pleasant, SC recommends adding stretching to your routine daily 100%!
Misnomers About Stretching
Often when we talk about stretching versus not stretching, we do so in relation to things like sports or activities. However, what science tells us is that it isn’t something to be considered a precursor for activities or just done once in a while; it is something that we need to do daily. Stretching does not have an immediate and lasting effect; rather, it has a cumulative effect, and it is important to maintain the range of motion and strength in your muscles and joints.
Why Stretching is Important
Stretching helps keep muscles healthy, limber, and strong while maintaining the flexibility necessary for full range of motion in the joints. Without stretching, muscles become tight and weak, so when you exert yourself and put them in motion, they aren’t able to fully extend. If you push a tight muscle past its capability you run the risk of sprains, strains, and muscle tears. When you stretch regularly, it helps to elongate the muscles and keep them at their strongest, which means when you need them to exert force, they are healthy enough to do so without strain or damage.
Stretching Has a Cumulative Effect
Not everyone loves to take the time daily to stretch, but an ounce of prevention will not only help you on the playing field; it will also help you through everyday activities. It isn’t something that you can do once and see immediate effects, because it takes time to see real progress in flexibility. Your muscles have to be trained to remain elongated, and it not only may take you weeks to get there; you have to continue regularly to maintain your progress. It is something that you have to commit to doing every day.
What is the Difference Between Active and Passive Stretching?
There are two different types of stretching: active and passive. Which one is most beneficial is another debate. You have to consider factors like pain, gender, orthopedic issues, and how long you have been stretching to determine which one is best for you. Passive stretching is when an outside force is used to stretch a limb, such as a partner, strap, or gravity, and active stretching is when you intentionally contract a muscle that you stretch yourself. Science tells us that both types of stretching are good for your muscles, and neither of them seem to be better than the other. Research tells us that the type of stretching isn’t as important as the regularity of it.
So, Is There Still a Debate?
The science is clear that stretching is important not just for athletes, but for everyone, especially as you age. Muscles are creatures of habit just like us, and if you don’t use them, you lose them, meaning that if you allow your muscles to sit in one position all day, they will want to stay in that position and lose strength. At Strength and Recovery, we understand the importance that stretching plays in the lives of not just our athletes or our clients, but the entire population; we believe that if there is still a debate, it has been proven stretching is a must. If you are having a hard time with chronic pain stemming from short, tight muscles, something as simple as adding stretching to your daily routine might be a complete game-changer. If you are suffering from an injury or just want to improve your overall fitness, contact our physical therapy Mt. Pleasant, SC facility today!