Is Stretching Before You Exercise Really Necessary?

7 minute read

The Diversity of Stretching Exercises

There's a lot of debate and discussion about whether stretching is an important part of any exercise routine. This debate persists partly because people are somewhat vague about what 'stretching' actually is and the criteria represented by 'stretching' is actually very broad. It leaves the question as to its true importance.

People themselves are just as diverse. They will vary in terms of their health goals, their overall lifestyles, their health statistics, and what they are trying to accomplish with a given workout. Fitness is complicated and highly individual, which is why making almost any generalization about exercising and lifestyle choices can be so detrimental. To make choices, we need to know for sure.

Senior woman stretching in the park

Perceived Benefits of Stretching

People should not think that stretching is universally good for an exercise routine just because of perceived health benefits. However, stretching, when performed correctly, does have a lot of very clear health benefits that will become more important for all people as they get older. In the end, it really is important.

Flexibility is often seen as less important than strength, speed, and agility. However, one of the main reasons why a lot of very old individuals experience injuries as often as they do is because of the tightness of their muscles and tendons. Muscles and tendons will naturally shorten and tighten with age. However, it is possible for people to fight against this. Stretching can help.

There are people in their sixties who are certainly more flexible than people in their thirties, if those people in their sixties did yoga all the time and the people in their thirties were office workers who never got any exercise. Basically, it's all relative.

A lack of flexibility can make a person much more prone to falls and injuries. People who stay flexible will stay healthy. They'll also feel better and they'll tend to find many everyday tasks much easier to accomplish. Flexibility is key to health.

Different Types of Stretching Exercises

Most people are familiar with static stretching. This is the sort of stretching that people did in gym class as children, and it's often promoted in exercise circles. It involves holding a lengthened muscle in a sustained pose for several seconds to several minutes.

Dynamic stretches involve an entire range of motion, exercising and lengthening multiple muscles in the process. People can also do something similar to dynamic stretching in order to target the fascia of the muscles, thus strengthening the connective tissue behind muscles.

People who engage in these different types of stretches on a regular basis will have a tendency to get much healthier, faster, and they will tend to stay that way. They'll usually feel more energetic as a result. Most movements and exercises will come more easily to them as well. There are a myriad of benefits to healthy stretches.

Woman stretching at sunset

Stretching and Priority Exercise

When people talk about not being able to exercise, the main reason that they list is simply that they don't have enough time. People are busy, and working in enough time to take care of the body is not always a priority for a lot of people, despite the wellness benefits.

Having to make time to do any strength training exercises or cardiovascular exercises can be difficult enough for a lot of people, but having to work in time to stretch can be even harder. Nevertheless, it is a critical component of our health.

Stretching can be difficult for a lot of people who are not naturally flexible and who have a lot of problems when it comes to muscle cramping. Some people who are good at sport games and at walking and running for long periods of time might still have problems when it comes to stretching exercises.

These people need to take extra caution to avoid injuries, which can happen with stretching exercises. People shouldn't think of stretching exercises as uniformly beneficial and harmless. One of the benefits of an exercise like walking is that this is something many people already do on a regular basis, so they have an idea of what their bodies can handle. When it comes to stretching, people might have to figure everything out for themselves. Ultimately, people who are interested in fitness need to listen to their bodies and trust their bodies, to help them avoid injuries.

People who don't have a lot of time to stretch might want to consider doing a little more work on muscles that are a little tighter than the others, even if this is only on one side of the body. Getting more symmetry and working on the more stubborn muscles often makes more sense. It's all part of a system to enhance mobility.

Woman stretching at home

What You Should Stretch and How

When it comes to stretching before a workout, people should consider what exactly they are going to be doing during the workout. If they plan on using a bicycle, for instance, it's a good idea for them to stretch out their leg muscles and their back muscles in order to improve performance and prevent injuries. Doing related stretches before a workout can make all the difference for most people.

There are lots of debates about the best time to exercise and to stretch. Stretching before a warm-up is actually not a good idea, even though it has been touted as ideal for a long time. Warming up and then stretching before a workout is a better idea. The warm-up period can last around five or ten minutes.

However, stretching actually works best following a workout, giving the muscle a chance to recover and allowing people to do an easier exercise after completing a harder one. People don't necessarily have to stretch around a workout, of course. Many people find that it's easier to do this in order to engage with the muscle or to let it relax. There are a lot of ways to view stretching as part of an exercise routine.

The Bottom Line

In many cases, working in stretching throughout the day is a good idea. Most people are not athletes. They're specifically interested in getting healthier overall and not just in getting healthier for the sake of getting better at a particular sport or activity. No matter what the stretching may entail, it's a good idea to include it.

People who do stretches will enjoy greater flexibility in general and that will let them hold onto their mobility as time passes. They will find that it's easier to stay healthy with age as a result. Including stretching a pre- (or post) requisite to your exercise routine will provide countless health benefits and advantages to your body. You simply need the dedication and willpower to make it work for you!