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Stretching to benefit your work out, flexibilty, and overall health

Stretching is easily one of the most ignored components of fitness. It happens all of the time. People come into the gym, spend an hour working out and take only two minutes out for stretching.
And to an extent, it’s understandable.  Stretching is slower, takes more time, and is often more frustrating. People often believe that they simply are not flexible and never will be, but that is simply not true.  Flexibility, like anything else, takes practice. While some are more predisposed to flexibility than others, anyone can gain better flexibility.
Stretching is extremely important to a workout. There are many benefits to it, especially for physically active people. Flexibility is about more than being able to do hard Yoga poses like “the crow” or “a headstand.” There are a lot of health benefits as well.  Here are a few:
1. Injury prevention.  Part of the reason that stretching is so important to a work out is because it helps prevent you from injuring yourself while you exercise. Improved flexibility means that your movements become more fluid, making you less susceptible to strained muscles and other injuries.
2. Improves circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles. Improved circulaiton can help recovery from injuries and can also help promote cell growth and organ function. It also leads to an overall healthier feeling.
3. Increased energy levels. Another result of the improved circulation is an increase in energy. College can be exhausting, and stretching is just another to help combat the exhaustion and the stress.
A lot of people simply don’t know how to stretch. It’s something foreign to them. If you are in this boat, here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you work out:
1. Focus on major muscle groups. Specifically, focus on the muscles that you worked out before your stretch. It’s also not a bad idea to stretch the areas that you work on a regular basis.
2. Do static stretches.  This rule isn’t written in stone, but it is your safest option. “Ballistic” stretches which include bouncing in your stretch is not safe and can lead to injury. You don’t necessarily have to stand perfectly still, but you should be careful about your movement, especially if you’re not very flexible.A stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds.
3. Don’t stretch to the point of pain. Stretching should not be painful. If you’re hurting then ease up a little. You want to go until you feel a stretch and then stop. Pain is not a sign that it’s working.
4. Stretch after your workout. A lot of people stretch before a workout or before a run; however, stretching before physical activity isn’t really that important and can lead to injury. Your muscles need to be “warmed up” before they are stretched. Otherwise, you run the risk of hurting yourself.
Google and YouTube are both excellent tools to use to learn more about stretching and to find different stretches for each muscle groups.  It’s worth doing the research when your health is involved.