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How to do Stretching Properly

Unless a person is getting fit playing a sport that he loves, he may find fitness drudgery. Swimming, for instance, provides a complete balanced workout, stimulating cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility. On the other hand, golf is relaxing but improves circulation only if you walk. One other example is you get a great cardiovascular workout and good lower-body strength from playing soccer at least once a week.

All sports entail risk of injury (some more than others). Sometimes, the fun and sweat one gets from playing his favorite sport can result to injuries – the most common are sprained ligaments and pulled muscles. But the benefits of playing any sport usually far outweigh the dangers.

This is true because, as many medical and health studies have concluded, a regular physical activity lowers the risks of cardiovascular and lung diseases, diabetes, and osteoporosis. It’s essential for weight control and eases the pain of osteoarthritis. It also enhances life by reducing stress, increasing energy, elevating mood, bettering self-image, improving appearance, stimulating creativity, and reinforcing such healthy lifestyle changes as eating right and quitting smoking.

Flexibility is an important part of injury prevention, and you’re never too old to improve it by stretching regularly. But when stretching is done improperly, it can do more harm than good. To get the most out of stretching, physical fitness experts provide the following tips:

– Warm up before stretching. Five minutes of aerobic activity (examples: brisk walking, jogging, and jumping rope) increases the flow of blood to the muscles before they are stretched.

– Stretch the larger muscle groups first, going through the full range of motion for each group. Match your stretches to the demands of your sport.

– Hold a stretch for about 20 seconds. Time is essential for muscle tissue to lengthen safely.

– Stretch every day, if possible, or at least three or four times a week.

– Stretch slowly and deliberately. Don’t bounce; quick, jerky stretching is hard on the joints and can tear muscle fibers, causing scar tissue to develop.

– Inhale and exhale naturally. Don’t hold your breath while in a stretch.

– If stretching is painful, don’t keep doing it. Any discomfort you feel should be mild and brief.

– Stretch after exercise, too.

When done right (as suggested here), experts say that stretching may help lengthen muscles, increase range of motion, improve speed and agility, and relieve tension.