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Stretching for Fitness Success

By Michelle Hoeing, RDN LN

 

Could something as easy as stretching really be important to maintaining physical fitness? The answer: Yes!  Stretching feels great and is helpful to your physical well-being. 

 

There are two types of stretching that a fitness professional focuses on, dynamic and static. Is one better than the other?  Let's explore how they differ and how each type of stretching should be included in your physical training.

 

Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching you perform while you are in motion. These are slow, controlled movements. You should only start dynamic stretches after you complete an initial warm up prior to an exercise routine.

 

While performing dynamic stretches you are gradually loosening muscles and increasing your heart rate. Take controlled breaths in and out. During this phase of your warm-up you are increasing your body temperature and blood flow as well. Start with slow, small movements and then gradually increase the distance of the stretch and the speed to work up to your maximum. Avoid making jerky movements. These are controlled movements that do not involve "bouncing" while performing the stretch.

 

Wide, controlled arm circles, shoulder rolls and turning your head side to side are examples of dynamic stretching -- not bouncing stretched arms up and down or shaking your head around.   

 

Static stretching, on the other hand, is what you do when you are cooling down from a workout. To do this type of stretch properly, you stretch, and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. This type of stretching helps improve flexibility and range of motion. These stretches are performed while the body is standing still. 

 

Always be careful not to stretch to a point where you feel physical discomfort. If you experience constant pain, seek a physician's advice.