Stretching to prevent injury

April 22, 2009 3:29:52 PM PDT
The warm weather means more people are apt to resume exercising outdoors. However, it's often advised that before starting any vigorous activity, stretching properly is necessary to avoid injury. Scientists have found that two popular methods may help keep the body flexible.One recommended technique is called static stretching, where you simply lengthen muscles such as the calf or Gastroc muscle. Some studies show it actually can weaken the muscles slightly at the beginning of a workout or at least until your muscles are warmed up. On the other hand, if done correctly, static stretches can increase joint range of motion, needed by dancers.

Most people do static stretching for about 30 seconds, a couple of times, before working out. But, fitness researcher Dr. Malachy McHugh points out it to really have a prolonged effect, a person would have to do for it for a minute, at least five times before exercise.

The other commonly used stretches are called dynamic stretches. They activate the muscles and the brain in coordination. These are great for athletes doing high-speed, rapid direction changes in sports such as football, soccer, basketball and tennis. Dynamic stretches can reduce the risk of muscle strains and sprains.

"If your emphasis is to prepare your muscles for some sudden movements, then dynamic stretching may be more beneficial," Dr. McHugh said.

If you participate in an activity such as running or golf, which use predictable regular movements, a light warm-up for five to 10 minutes is all that's needed; no additional stretching is require to loosen up the body.

As a general rule, stretching after exercise won't prevent muscle soreness, but it might help keep muscles and joints more limber.

WEB PRODUCED BY: Nika C. Beamon


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