Stretching is a key 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 can help your body get ready for exercise. It also helps the body recover after aerobic exercise. Other benefits of stretching are:
Whether stretching can help prevent injury is unclear. Researchers continue to study the effects of stretching on injury prevention.
There are two types of stretching: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching involves you stretching the muscle while moving. Static stretch is when you are stretching a muscle group while staying in one place. 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 work with a certified athletic trainer. You can find a trainer at a local gym or ask your doctor or a friend.
Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor about any health problems that would limit your ability to exercise.
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:
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Accessed January 12, 2021.
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 January 12, 2021.
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 January 12, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 1/29/2021