Let’s face it, we have all found ourselves sneaking out of an exercise class before the final stretch. ]While the final stretch isn’t as exciting as the challenges we face during class, stretching after exercise is ceratinly important.
Dr. Brian Deutsch from USA Sports Therapy explains that muscle tightness is often a precursor to muscle injury. Stretching after class can reduce muscle soreness, so saving a few minutes by skipping the post-class stretch is not advised.
If you’re someone who skips the stretch, you may have wondered how effective such a short stretch can be. Most exercises classes end with a 5-minute stretch in which poses are held for about 30 seconds each. Those 30 seconds are critical, as your muscles can reap the benefits of the stretch.
Dr. Deutsch explained that short duration stretching is a safer way to stretch rather than holding stretches for long durations. He suggests holding stretches for short durations and repeating poses rather than holding static stretches for long periods of time.
“Micro tears in the muscle fibers that occur during exercise, holding stretches for prolonged periods of time could potentially injure your muscles,” says Dr. Deutsch.
A major benefit of stretching immediately after exercise is that your muscles are still warm. Stretching when your muscles are cold and your heart rate has slowed down is less effective. Hitting a yoga class later in the day isn’t a good substitute either, especially if you are planning on taking a challenging yoga class.
There are alternatives to static stretching for those with limited flexibility. Dr. Deutsch suggests using resistance bands, which and can be used during static stretching. Unlike static stretching, foam rolling uses myofascial release and is a great way to hit the muscle from different angles, but should be limited to 10-minutes.
Regardless if you skip the stretch or not, Dr. Deutsch emphasized the most important thing you can do is listen to your body. If you have to choose between stretching pre-workout and post-workout, opt for post-workout. Static stretching before exercise is less important than after. Stretching can serve as a time to check in with your body and notice any signs of an injury. If your muscles are sore, it is important to include rest days into your workout program.
Dr. Brian Deutsch is a Doctor of Chiropractic at USA Sports Therapy. To learn more about USA Sports Therapy click here. Remember to also connect with USA Sports Therapy on social media: Instagram: here and Facebook: here.