Sondra E. Z. Hines

Wednesday Wellness

Health & fitness topics for people on the go

Why stretching is so important before exercising

Question: I just started exercising and have been hearing a lot about flexibility. Why is flexibility important?

Flexibility is the ability of a joint and muscles to move through a range of motion. This allows you to perform simple tasks without pain – tasks such as reaching, stretching, bending, etc. – all the things we do daily. Although cardio exercise is important, flexibility is equally vital, yet it’s often treated like a fitness stepchild.

I know this from my own experience. In 2016, I underwent major surgery. During my eight-week recovery – and due to a layoff – my body was less flexible than before surgery.  So as I morphed back to exercising, I was mindful to include stretching moves to increase my flexibility.

Just as weight/resistance training helps tone muscles and exercises helps to maintain healthy weight, consistent stretching helps one become more flexible.

And that leads to:

• Lower the risk of injuries
• Improved performance in physical activities
• Muscles working more effectively

I suggest you include flexibility as part of your exercise program. Here are a few training tips to get started (always check with your doctor before beginning):

• Start slow — Listen to your body. If a stretch causes pain, take a break.
• Warm-up — Research suggests that stretching “cold” muscles may actually be harmful.
• Hold stretches — for roughly 30 seconds while breathing normally. (Don’t hold your breath.)
• Target major muscle — calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, shoulders, sides, quadriceps (front of thigh) and hamstrings (back of thigh)
• Be realistic — Don’t try to mimic the flexibility of others (gymnast, advanced athletes, etc.); stay within your comfort zone.
• Be consistent — perform flexibility exercises a minimum of 3 times a week.

Until next time, I wish you health and wellness.

Sondra E. Z. Hines is a writer, AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. Follow her on Twitter.

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