Exercising For Fitness – Stretching

Exercising For Fitness – Stretching

Article by David Burns

Exercising For FitnessBy David Burns

To Stretch Or Not To Stretch?

That is the question,whether it is better for the body to stretch and bend before exercise or to take up a more cautious approach and leave stretching until later. (Sorry! That’s awful -actually Shakespeare did it much better.)

However, this is a serious question. There are two schools of thought. Traditionally, it was thought that stretching would be good way to warm up before exercising but today many fitness experts think that this kind of static stretching before exercise is potentially harmful.

Many people take it for granted that they should start their exercise routines with some stretching exercises as a warm-up for their actual workout or sports event. However, some fitness experts claim that traditional stretches, such as bending over to touch your toes or stretching your leg muscles can cause your muscles to tense up which is not a good preparation for physical activity, especially for competitive sport.

When you stretch before exercising, some of your muscle groups may react as if they are being overstretched. Muscles may then compensate by contracting and coming into a state of tension. This means that once you start your full work out you are more likely to cause damage your muscles.

In the last few years, several studies have found static stretching before playing a sport actually makes you slower and weaker. It has been suggested that people who carry out stretch routines before exercise were just as likely to suffer injuries such as a pulled muscle.

Experts who are against stretching before exercise suggest the alternative of a gentle jogging session or sport-specific exercise, like kicking a football in a pre match warm up. This type of gentle movement will increase the heart rate, increase the blood flow to the muscles and also increase body temperature. This is better than stretching which can still be carried out after your workout, or at the end of your active day.

Unfortunately, as with most things in life,”One Size Does Not Fit All” The information above is correct when applied to athletes and those preparing for a serious game of football or basketball etc. However, what if you are trying to fit in a short period of daily “keep fit” exercise or you are a senior citizen who is trying to exercise at home. Should you avoid all stretching exercises?

These are different circumstances. Someone who spends hours sitting in front of a computer at a work or an older person who does not get out very much will need to stretch frequently. This is because stretching improves flexibility and balance. Stretching also aids blood flow and has a beneficial effect on various organs and systems of the body such as the lymphatic system. This means that stretching can be used as a warm up if you are only going to engage in relatively light exercise.

All that you have to remember is that you must carry out stretching exercises slowly and gently. When possible include dynamic stretching exercises. These exercises are defined by the inclusion of movement an example would be the lunge. You may benefit from using one or two gentle stretching exercises from pilates or Tai chi.

Stretching exercises share one thing with every type of exercise work-out that you might undertake – do not launch into them when your body temperature is low and when the ambient temperature is cold. Always start slowly and gently that way you will gain lots of benefits but avoid strained and torn muscles.

Summing upIf you are an athlete or pursuing a vigorous sport, you should warm up with a gentle activity such as a gentle jog.If your activities and work-outs are more modest, careful stretching is good, provided you follow the guide lines given above.

David Burns a specialist contributor to Needwood Publications and the author of “Fitness Training For Beginners ” and other fitness books. You can claim a free download of “Exercise Tips For Beginners” by visiting http://www.fitnesstraining-guide.co.uk

About the Author

David Burns qualified as a professional engineer but moved into industrial management.

He became interested in motivation and developing management team members to take on more responsibility and develop greater confidence.

He has now written several books on “getting fit” and “personal motivation”. These books are especially suitable for beginners (of any age) and for people who have some experience but wish to develop their skills further.

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