At Total Health Systems, our priority is to address the whole patient, not just health problems that patients have when they come to us. We help them to make life changes to try to prevent future recurrences. One of the ways to stay healthy is some form of exercise. There is common misconception amongst patients that before exercises we should do a lot of static stretching. Some even consider stretching as their warm up. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be further from truth. It may actually give us a disadvantage for exercising if we spend a lot of time static stretching before our workout.
Let’s look into it a bit closer. What is a warm up? We can consider any activities performed before exercise or physical competition that is preparing body for that activity as a warm up. Benefits of a good warm up are:
- It warms the muscles and increases body temperature, which improves the oxygen supply to the body
- It helps increase blood flow to the muscles, allowing them to contract and relax more quickly
- It helps prepare the body and the mind for more strenuous activity
- It helps to reduce the risk of injury
- It increases overall exercise performance
- It increases the elasticity of the ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues
Activities that help us to achieve that should be:
- Low intensity “cardio exercises” like walking, jogging, cycling to increase heart rate, temperature of the body and increase blood flow.
- Calisthenics activities to warm up muscles
- Movement engaging full range of motion in joints that will be used in exercise or physical performance.
- Ballistic or dynamic stretching which would activate neural pathways and muscles to get ready for performance without permanent changes in muscle length.
- Short bouts of high intensity movement
Stretching is activity focusing on elongating muscles and connective tissue, resulting in increased range of motion. It is one of the qualities that should be developed during a properly structured exercise program. It is as important as strength, endurance or coordination training.
The most popular way to achieve this is by static stretching. Advantages of static stretching are that receptors reacting to sudden change of tension are not activated and therefore stretched muscles are not stimulated to contract. It allows us to elongate muscles more and better engage barriers and achieve permanent changes in their length.
Muscles are more pliable when they are warm, so the best time to do stretching is after warm up or after exercise, when the temperature of the body is increased. Stretching by itself can only increase the temperature of stretched muscle locally, by increasing blood circulation.
Some studies found that stretching temporarily decreases a muscle’s ability to contract for up to an hour after. What it means is that extensive stretching before exercise will negatively impact our performance and we will not be able to exercise at the level we would without prior stretching.
These are concepts that Total Health Systems of Macomb County educates our patient’s on so they not only feel better, but they truly improve for the long term. Check us out to find out more on our blog, or in our office.