Why stretching is important before and after exercise
Injury prevention and post exercise recovery is important for any athlete or individual that enjoys an active lifestyle, but does it matter if we skip our warm-up, or don’t have time for a cool-down with an sufficient stretch at the end of an intense work out?
The difference between warming up stretches and cool down stretches
The two predominant types of stretching are dynamic and static stretching.
Warm-up stretches should involve dynamic stretching; this is an active stretching where you move your joints and muscles through all ranges of motions. Examples of this type of stretch include walking lunges, legs swings, trunk rotations, arm swings, etc.
Dynamic stretching switches on the nervous system that prepares our muscles to be active and ready for action. Dynamic stretching increases blood flow to the area, allowing important nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, giving the muscle the ability to adequately contract its muscle fibres, ultimately preparing the muscles for an increase in motion, and decreasing your chance of injury to the muscle.
Cool-down stretches should include static stretches; this is when a joint or muscles is held in a stretched position for 15-60 seconds to increase the length of the muscle.
Static stretching supports activation of the nervous system that allows the soft tissues to “rest”. This lengthens the muscles and tendons, decreasing muscle tone and aiding in the recovery process following sport and activity.
What happens if I do static stretching before exercise?
If static stretching is done prior to activity, this can potentially decrease overall body temperature and decrease the blood flow into the tissue, creating localised ischemia to the muscles (restriction in blood supply). This may be detrimental and result in injury, and/or decreased muscle performance, therefore resulting in a decrease in your overall agility and performance.