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The Benefits of Stretching

By Charles Hopkins Published 10/23/2007 | Fitness
The benefits of stretching are often overlooked. Many people work out heavily; they leave the gym without giving their bodies a chance to cool down and relax before turning to regular activity levels. There are differing opinions suggesting how and when to stretch. No matter how one slices it, its clear that stretching adds a new dimension to personal health and fitness.

Many people use stretching as a warm-up exercise. This is especially true for sprinters and long distance runners. Loads of martial arts schools use stretching and other routines used to increase flexibility before the main workout. Others use stretching as a way to wake up in the morning. The idea is simple:stretching causes the muscles to loosen up before vigorous activity.

While some stretch before working out,other people stretch as a cooling exercise. Some gyms that offer total fitness programs recommend at least five minutes of stretching after a workout so that muscles retain the benefits of strength training. Its also a way to prepare individuals for a return to their regular activities. The theory is that stretching is best done after a workout because the workout has warmed the muscles, thus making them easier and less painful to stretch.

Stretching is also an art form. In the practice of Yoga, individuals use special postures that offer full stretches to all parts of the body The postures are held for about a minute at the very least. It is said that these stretches offer a form of meditation, move the blood to all the right places, and act as a sort of a massage for the organs in order to squeeze toxins from them. Yogis then drink water to flush these toxins. If flexibility is to be the name of the game, then a Yoga studio is the place to be.

The Keys and benefits to stretching are numerous. Stretching maintains flexibility as muscle mass increases. Its best to be sure, especially if one decides to stretch after a workout, that all major muscle groups have been stretched. Its best to hold each stretch for no less than fifteen seconds each. Furthermore, its important to breathe into the stretch. Breathing allows for the release of air so that one can reach further into the stretch for maximum benefit.

Its important not to overlook the benefits of stretching. A flexible and relaxed body is a healthy body that copes well with the stresses of daily life.