Stretching is an essential part of a complete exercise program. However, many people skip it, thinking they don't have enough time or it's not very important.
Stretching offers many benefits, like improving your flexibility, range of motion, and circulation. Stretching may also help to lower your stress level. Advocates for stretching recommend the activity to reduce sports-related injuries, but not all studies have come to this conclusion. Researchers are still exploring how stretching impacts exercise.
Two general types of stretching include dynamic stretching, where the joint is moved through full range, and static stretching, where the joint is held at end range of movement. You can do individual stretching exercises for each muscle group or you can do total body stretching routines.
Major muscle groups to stretch include:
Classes in total body stretching include:
Here are some tips for safe stretching:
Here are some common stretching mistakes to avoid:
For total body stretching, you can start by going to yoga or tai chi classes. To learn how to stretch specific muscle groups, you can buy a book on stretching or enlist the help of a certified athletic trainer. You can find a trainer at a local gym or through a referral from your doctor or a friend.
Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor about any possible medical problems you may have that would limit your exercise program.
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Yoga Science Foundation
Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Basic injury prevention concepts. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/basic-injury-prevention-concepts. Accessed November 14, 2017.
McHugh MP, Cosgrave CH. To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010;20(2):169-181.
The basics of personal training for seniors. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3248/to-stretch-or-not-to-stretch. Accessed November 14, 2017.
To stretch or not to stretch? American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3248/to-stretch-or-not-to-stretch. Accessed November 14, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 2/3/2014