Is It Worth Stretching Before Exercising?

Man doing stretching exercise at the park

Many people believe that stretching before exercise is unnecessary. They think it to be a myth propagated by fitness trainers, who have nothing more to do than just waste precious time pulling hands and stretching legs.

But what people don’t realize is that stretching before exercise is probably the only thing that saves them from injury when they are lifting weights or doing splits and jumps.

Warm up first before you begin stretching

However, stretching is not the first part of an exercise regime. The first step is to warm up the body. Alternatively you could even take a warm shower, dry up and begin your stretches. The process of warming up allows the blood in your body to circulate freely, so that it can reach the maximum level. The reason is that you need to get your blood circulation going before you can actually stretch.

An increased supply of blood makes the muscles warm and more pliable and thereby reduces strain on them when stretching. This brings us back to the age-old question – why must people stretch before exercising – it’s not like a cheetah stretches before running down his prey or a baboon wriggles his arms and legs before jumping from tree to tree.

The unfortunate fact is that we left out predatory fitness when we chose a civilized mode of life. We are not designed to be flexible from the word go and our muscles need time to adapt to the stress of exercise or a sudden movement. Therefore, even the best of athletes and champions have to stretch before they exercise.

Can stretching prevent Injuries?

Muscles are not like elastic and cannot be stretched as and when required. Regardless of their flexibility, sudden jerking or increase in mobility can cause them severe injury. If they are not adapted to a particular movement, then they might entirely rip apart during an exercise.

Of course, these are worst-case scenarios, but then again why take the chance? The aim of any stretching routine is to gently increase the muscle length, thereby facilitating movement and exercise.

Stretching before exercise makes the limbs suppler and this reduces strain on the muscles when strenuous exercises are involved. The gentle rotational actions of the limbs that a stretching routine begins with are responsible for releasing the synovial fluid that is stored in the joints.

This fluid in turn lubricates all major and minor joints, making then impervious to friction and injury. The ideal way to stretch is to allow you to feel a little discomfort when doing so. Nonetheless, extreme pain is to be strictly avoided, and if that happens, seek medical attention without delay.

Stretching before exercise generally begins with the limbs and from there you work inwards towards the back and abdomen. The wrists and hands are stretched by simple rotations whereas the longer, tougher muscles are stretched a little more vigorously, often with the assistance of others.

Regular stretching before exercise makes you more flexible. Studies have shown that flexibility is a key factor in fitness, even more so than weight and waistlines. Regular stretching improves the overall tone of your body but it does not in any way work towards reducing weight or burning fat.

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