You've just finished a healthy workout. Good for you! But before you move on, don't forget to take that key last step in your fitness program: stretching!
Most of us grew up believing that you should stretch before you work out. But stretching cold muscles can do more harm than good. The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warmed up, so after you exercise is the ideal time. If you want to stretch before you work out, too, warm up with about 10 minutes of light exercise first.
As the staff of the Mayo Clinic explains it, most exercise and strength training cause your muscles to contract, or get shorter and tenser. That's why stretching is such an important step. It brings you:
Some studies say stretching also helps prevent sports injuries, but others don't support it. And recent information from researchers at the University of Sydney suggests that stretching won't spare you from feeling sore a day or two after heavy exercise.
To do the most good, stretching needs to be done the right way. Here are some tips from eXtension (a partnership of 74 universities in the United States), The Nemours Foundation, and the Mayo Clinic:
If you're ever tempted to skip the stretching step after you exercise, just remember that stretching after your workout does even more than bring you better health. It feels good!
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