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If You’re Reading This, You’re Probably Not Stretching Enough

This underrated relaxation technique isn’t just for athletes.


The other day, I was treated to a deep tissue massage as a holiday gift—a rare but enjoyable occasion that I always look forward to. Lying on a heated bed in the ambient, aromatic room, I let the tension dissipate slowly out of my body as I began to relax. Meanwhile, my masseuse worked her way up to the deep knots in my neck and commented: “Do you work a desk job?”


Right away, it was evident that I hadn’t properly taken care of my neck in a while. Upon finishing the massage, I left with a resolute determination to stretch my body more, if only not to embarrass myself in front of a masseuse again.


Although commonly overlooked, stretching is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Ask any athlete or yoga enthusiast, and they’ll readily agree that it helps to improve flexibility and range of motion, along with numerous other benefits. However, contrary to popular belief, stretching isn’t reserved for professional Olympic athletes or health fanatics. With proper technique and a couple minutes out of your day, you too can reap the benefits.


There are two main types of stretching: static and dynamic. Static stretching involves holding a stretch for a certain period of time without moving, while dynamic stretching involves moving through a full range of motion. Static stretching is best used as a cool-down after physical activity to help increase flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. Examples of static stretches include holding a lunge position or holding a forward bend. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is best used as a warm-up before physical activity to improve flexibility and prepare the body for movement. Examples of dynamic stretches include leg swings, arm swings, and high knees.


One of the key benefits of stretching is reducing the risk of injury. By preparing your muscles for physical activity and increasing blood flow to your muscles, stretching can help to reduce the risk of injury. Regular stretching can also improve posture by promoting muscle balance and preventing muscle imbalances.


In addition to reducing the risk of injury, stretching can also enhance sports performance. Try sneaking in this habit by adding a couple movements to the end of your cardio or strength routine if you have one. By increasing flexibility, stretching can help you move more efficiently during physical activity, and can also decrease muscle soreness and reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) following physical activity.


To get the most out of stretching, experts suggest spending 10 minutes before and after physical activity to stretch your major muscle groups. It’s important to listen to your body and only stretch to the point of gentle tension, not pain. Once this habit is developed, you’ll find that your body and lifestyle will thank you.


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