Why is stretching important before exercise? For us as women over 50, it’s not just important, it is essential.
As we age, it is essential that we take care of our bodies and incorporate fitness into our daily lives. One way to start is with stretching, so let’s explore why you should stretch before a workout.
And yes, even though stretching is essential, many people don’t stretch before they exercise.
Too often you’re in a hurry to get started on the workout and don’t take the time to properly prepare your body with stretching. I’m guilty of that at times, although I have learned what the benefits are, so my head is in a better place. And my body is enjoying the rewards of before and after workout stretches. So I am motivated to take a few minutes before and after exercising to do the stretches that feel so good.
This post will help you understand why stretching is so important for your body, how it can prevent injury and improve your range of motion, as well as your overall health.
Note that I am not a fitness expert, nor am I a health care provider. These tips and suggestions are to help motivate you to include stretching in your exercise workouts. Please consult with your physician if you have any questions about your ability to stretch or exercise.
Why is Stretching Important Before Exercise? 5 Benefits of Stretching
1) Reduces risk of injury:
Stretching is the link between the sedentary life and the active life. As we age, it becomes especially important to care for our bodies through regular exercise, including aerobic exercise and strength training, all with a pre and post-workout stretch.
Stretching before a workout can help prevent injury and increase your range of motion, meaning that it will improve the efficiency of your movement and make you more flexible. This will come in very handy as you’re going through your workout paces, my friend.
Muscle tightness is actually a major cause of injury for athletes, and the only way to prevent this is by implementing regular stretching into your daily workout routine. We may not be athletes (most of us, anyway), but the same principle applies.
Stretching can also help prevent other injuries like back pain, because it eases tension in the muscles around your spine. More about that in a minute.
Increased muscle range of motion:
Muscles must be flexible to move freely and perform their intended actions with ease; this is why it’s so important to stretch before a workout. Stretching prepares the body for the movements that will be made during the workout.
Stretching helps improve your overall performance by making your movement more efficient. Stretching also helps increase blood flow to joints and muscles by decreasing the pressure placed on them, which decreases soreness after a workout.
2) Prepares your body for the upcoming exercise and workout
Stretching is important before working out because it prepares your body for exercise and warms up the muscles, which makes exercising easier and more efficient.
Stretching also makes you more flexible, allowing you to move through a wider range of motion with reduced energy output since your joints will require less effort. As such, stretching before a workout will increase your performance and prevent injuries.
As we age, our bodies become less limber, and it becomes more difficult to perform basic tasks without tightness or discomfort. Stretching is one way to combat this, and it’s essential because it can increase your range of motion.
3) Increases blood supply to the muscles and joints
Increased blood flow is essential for faster post-workout recovery, because it allows your body to rid itself of muscle waste (like lactic acid) more quickly. Stretching before you work out also ensures that your body is warm, which is essential for stretching safely.
Stretching will definitely increase blood flow to the desired muscles, but it can dramatically improve blood flow in muscles you didn’t even realize were tight.
This is one of the most important reasons to stretch before exercise- especially if you are planning on taking a cardio or HIIT class.
4) Improves posture
You might not correlate pre-workout stretching with improved posture, but it can!
Stretching before you work out can help you maintain proper form while exercising. If your muscles are more flexible, they’ll be able to stretch and contract with ease- which means that you won’t have to compensate for stiffness by twisting or straining some other part of your body.
Specifically, when you stretch the muscles of your lower back, shoulders, and chest, it will help to keep your back in better alignment. And, that can result in better posture.
5) Less risk of lower back pain
When you take the time to stretch properly before exercising it can also reduce the risk of lower back pain.
Stretching can help prevent injuries like back pain, because it eases tension in the muscles around your spine. Muscles must be flexible to move freely and perform their intended actions with ease; this is why it’s so important to stretch before a workout.
Stretching your hamstrings and spine will help to improve your posture, which can reduce the risk of lower back pain.
Stretching Before Exercise is a Long Game
Making the decision to do a pre-workout stretch today is good, but it’s not enough. Stretching is not a “one and done” type of activity – commitment over time will give results.
When your muscles are warm, they can contract and relax with ease. This means that your joints will require less effort to move through their full range of motion because the muscle fibers are being stretched beforehand.
The more flexible your body is, the easier it will be for you to complete movements, which will improve your body’s overall performance and help prevent injury.
Stretching is a habit that should be incorporated into a daily routine. Just like brushing your teeth, you should do it every day.
The more you stretch, the less you’ll notice yourself tight and uncomfortable as a result of immobility. And you will become more flexible, my friend. Reaching down to pick something up off of the floor won’t seem like such an effort if your muscles have been properly stretched and used regularly.
It takes time to notice the difference but it is well worth the few minutes of time spent before and after exercising.
Simple Tips for Better Stretching
Here are some simple tips for women over 50 to incorporate into their pre-workout exercises, and also into their life activities in general:
- Stretch before you work out to increase your range of motion so your workout will be better and more effective. Every movement requires a certain degree of flexibility in the muscles involved, which means that stretching will improve your performance during exercise or any other physical activity.
- Stretch after you work out to reduce muscle stiffness and soreness, and also to prevent the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles.
- Stretch a minimum of once a day. Do it when you wake up, before bed, or right after completing a workout. Stretch every day to increase your flexibility and prepare your muscles for the rest of the activities you have planned for that day.
- Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, and repeat each stretch two to three times.
- Do not bounce as you hold your stretch. Bouncing causes your muscles to tighten, not relax; it actually makes them more stiff and less flexible.
- Do not hold your breath while stretching. When you hold your breath, you are putting pressure on the diaphragm, which can cause muscle tension where you don’t want it. Breathe freely as you hold each stretch.
- Do not push through pain. If you feel any sharp pains, ease up a bit on the intensity of the stretch. If it continues to hurt, stop and consult a doctor before continuing with your workout or stretching routine.
- Stretch in front of a mirror so that you can gain proper form.
- Make stretching your last activity for the day.
Videos – Stretching Exercises
If you are working out with a video or in-person instructor, they will include a warm up and cool down stretch. I haven’t participated in any type of video workouts that left off that essential piece of exercise.
But, if you are doing your own workouts and need to find a do-able warm up, here is one that I recommend from Schellea of Fabulous 50s. She keeps in mind the fact that we might not be able to jump around like we did in our younger years!
If you like this video, Schellea also has a cool down stretch and many other exercise videos.
You won’t go wrong with Lauren from Senior Shape, and this 10 minute full body stretch video is no exception. As she explains in the video, this is a wonderful beginner workout for overall stretching.
Conclusion: Why You Should Stretch Before Exercise
Stretching should be one of your priorities- especially as we age, it becomes increasingly important to take care of our bodies through exercise. And making a habit out of stretching every day- even if you only have time for 10 minutes of stretches, it can dramatically improve your overall mobility and performance.
It’s also important to remember that stretching has long term results; the earlier you begin a stretching regimen, the faster and more dramatic your improvement will be.
So, is stretching important? Well…that’s up to you! But if it will benefit your performance and even prevent injuries, what are you waiting for?
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