Stretching: Focus on flexibility

You can stretch anytime, anywhere. Just follow these tips to do it safely and effectively.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Stretching may take a back seat to your exercise routine. You may think that stretching your hamstrings and calves is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before or after pounding out some miles on the treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?

Not so fast. Although studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, stretching may help you improve your joint range of motion, which in turn may help improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Understand why stretching can help and how to stretch correctly.

Benefits of stretching

Studies about the benefits of stretching have had mixed results. Some show that stretching helps. Other studies show that stretching before or after exercise has little if any benefit and doesn't reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Studies have shown that static stretching performed immediately before a sprint event may decrease performance to a small degree.

More research is needed, but some benefits of stretching are thought to be:

  • Improving athletic performance in some activities
  • Decreasing the risk of activity-based injuries

Stretching can help improve flexibility, and, consequently, range of motion in your joints. Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enabling your muscles to work most effectively.

Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle. And you may come to enjoy the ritual of stretching before or after hitting the trail, ballet floor or soccer field.

Mar. 04, 2014 See more In-depth