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Published on September 22, 2020

Don’t forget to do this before and after working out

Stretching Overview

One of the most important parts of your workout happens before you start exercising. Whether you’re running, biking or swimming, a few minutes of stretching will help reduce your risk of injury.

Stephanie Gradone, DPT, ATRIC, a physical therapist and certified aquatic therapist at Cape Cod Healthcare, recommends stretching major muscle groups after a light warm-up of five minutes of walking or slow jogging.

Advice on stretching has changed over time, she said.

“Older individuals grew up with ballistic stretching where you kind of bounce, and we don’t recommend ballistic stretching at all anymore,” she said. “The best exercise routines include dynamic stretching before you workout and static stretching afterwards.”

Dynamic stretching involves moving through a joint or body part through a range of motion. Static stretching is when you hold a position near the end of your range of motion.

Walking with high knees is an example of dynamic stretching, while reaching for your toes for a given amount of time is static stretching.

“We used to recommend static stretching before and after exercise, but more current research shows dynamic stretching is better before high-level activity, with static stretching afterward,” Gradone said “You want to feel like your muscles are loose, and you want to feel like you're ready to exercise. Static stretching is meant to elongate the muscle, and we don’t want to do that before we go into activity.”

Static stretching is good for after a workout and stretches should be held for 15 to 30 seconds.

“Static stretching after a workout helps muscles recover and improves joint mobility,” she said.

Static stretching has an extra benefit for older people, Gradone said.

“It’s common to have tightness in the hamstrings and hip flexors because of sedentary lifestyles,” she said. “A lot of people sit at a desk for work, so they don’t get a lot of movement, and those two muscle groups are primarily the ones that are getting tight.”

Long intervals of sitting causes tightness in the hips and hamstrings, which can create postural deficits, she said.

“You’re more hunched over, which increases your risk of falling. Making sure you’re stretching your calf muscles alleviates the tightness in the ankles that can lead to gait deficits. If you can’t bring your toes towards your head as well as you should, you end up with a shorter step length and you have a greater risk of falling.”

Be sure to stretch the upper body, too, Gradone advised.

“Opening up the chest is important, because many people have a slouched posture from sitting at a computer,” she said.