Ask the Physio – Stretching

Ask the Physio
Ask the Physio

By Alison Ford.

Stretching has long played an important role in the world of sport and fitness with many athletes stretching religiously before and after exercise in the hope of preventing injuries. However this practice has been called into question recently with many people wondering if stretching really makes a difference to athletic performance. However it is without doubt that generalised stretching for better health is undoubtedly an important component of a healthy living routine.

The method of stretching and particular movement patterns are more important than anything and your Physiotherapist will help you with the best ones for you according to your body and your personal requirements.

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Stretching increases flexibility by lengthening your muscle fibres and to some extent your ligaments to the end of their range. Stretching before and after exercise can reduce your risk of injury, improve athletic performance and reduce your muscle soreness after exercise.

The two most common types of stretching are static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you lengthen your muscles and then hold that position for a period of time. Dynamic stretching uses movement and momentum of the body to stretch muscles to their end range, without holding the stretch at the end.

It has been found that a short stretching routine does improve flexibility but only for a short period. A few minutes after stretching, your joints move further, and with less resistance. However for long term effects one needs to stretch on a daily basis and spend at least 30 minutes a day doing a variety of long muscle stretches.

One thing which is undeniable is that stretching feels great as it improves your overall flexibility and this will help to prevent injuries. If you are an athlete then a stretching session prior to performing is a good idea and gentle stretching afterwards will also be therapeutically helpful.

To optimise your health whether you are an athlete or not then routinely stretching is great for not only your muscles and ligaments but also your organs, veins, arteries and lymphatics.