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Getting Started With Flexibility and Stretching


Topic Overview

A big part of beginning a physical activity program is getting used to the feel of using your muscles, and flexibility can be a great place to start. Just as with other kinds of physical activity, it's best to start slowly and increase your efforts gradually.

Stretching exercises will help you as you become more active. Stretching before and after aerobic exercise (even walking) and muscle strengthening may prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness and cramping. One approach is to take 5 to 10 minutes before and after each program to stretch your muscles. Be sure to stretch the muscles you will be using when you exercise.

Tips for stretching

  • As a warm-up to other exercise: Get blood flowing into the muscles before the stretch to prevent injuries. Walk or do some other light aerobic exercise for a few minutes.
  • As part of a cool-down from other exercise: Your muscles are usually very warm and will benefit from stretching and lengthening to improve your overall flexibility and reduce soreness.
  • Ease yourself into the stretch, relax, and don't push or bounce. You should feel a stretch in the muscle which might be a little uncomfortable, but not pain.
  • Exhale as you do the stretch. While you are holding the stretch, inhale deeply.
  • Try closing your eyes while stretching. It helps you relax and reduces self-consciousness and the urge to compete.
  • Take a moment to enjoy the good, warm feeling that comes after a good stretch.

Try some of these stretchesClick here to see an illustration..

Stretching can also be a good way to relax. You may want to try something like tai chi, or see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Practicing Yoga to Relax.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Improving flexibility. Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 151–164. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerHeather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
Last RevisedOctober 25, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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