Welcome Back! Last week in Part 1 we talked about the different types of stretching and how to stretch properly.
If you missed Part 1, I would highly recommend you go back and read it…WHEN and HOW OFTEN you stretch is only part of the stretching equation. It’s just as important to understand which type of stretching is best for you and how to stretch properly.
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of stretching and which is best for you, next we’ll answer the question…WHEN and HOW OFTEN Should I Stretch?
Let’s start with WHEN…
So, when is the best time to stretch?
My answer…ANYTIME is a good time to stretch! Okay, some might argue this point to some degree and I wouldn’t totally disagree on some of those points.
For example, it’s generally not recommended to do intense static stretching before a strenuous workout or activity. But Dynamic Stretching would be very beneficial in that situation. It’s still a good idea to stretch. Just choose the right type of stretching!
The fact is most people, including athletes and people who exercise regularly, don’t stretch enough! So, I hate to put too many limitations on when to stretch!
I’m sticking with my answer…ANYTIME!
For the most part, ANYTIME you feel the need to stretch if it feels helpful...it probably is!
Let’s move on to HOW OFTEN you should stretch…
Well, this depends on your goals and whether you want to improve flexibility or just need to maintain it.
If something is tight or stiff and is limiting or restricting your movement, generally you'll want to improve this. Improving your flexibility and range of motion will help make movements and activities easier and more comfortable.
I generally recommended controlled static stretching in the early phases of recovery from an injury or surgery, or anytime pain levels are high. Otherwise dynamic stretching or PNF stretching may be beneficial for an otherwise healthy individual in most cases. (Go back and read Part 1 if you need a refresher on the different types of stretching.)
Regardless of the type of stretching that is best for you, if you want to improve flexibility you'll need to stretch more often. I generally recommend doing several stretches for an area at least 3 times every day until you've reached your goal.
It’s fine to stretch more often if you feel it’s helpful and it may help you improve your flexibility more quickly, but I will caution you DO NOT STRETCH TOO AGGRESSIVELY. Being aggressive or forcing a stretch will not help you make faster gains and will likely result in an injury. So be patient and be consistent…your body will respond!
Once you have reached your goal or if you’re already there and just need to maintain your flexibility, you still need to stretch regularly…maybe just not as often as those that need to improve flexibility. Maintenance needs will vary for each individual for several reasons, including fitness level, the type of work a person does, age, health history, etc.
For maintenance, I generally recommend stretching at least once every day to start, especially for areas of concern or areas that are prone to begin tight…for you! Some people will find stretching once every day is enough to maintain their flexibility. Others will require more, some may need less. It might depend on what your activities were that day. So, start with once a day and then adjust from there based on what YOUR body needs.
I also recommended doing a FULL BODY stretching session at least once a week. This is a VERY effective way to “self-screen” your body and identify areas that are beginning to feel tight or stiff. If you never stretch, how will you know something is starting to get tight and possibly putting you at a higher risk of getting hurt? If you stretch regularly you will stay in tune with your body and any signals that something may need some extra attention.
So, there you have it!
Now you know WHEN and HOW OFTEN you should stretch!
If you still have questions, need some individualized guidance about the best stretching regimen for you or want help with a specific problem…let us know!
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Best in Health,
Dr. Julie Krueger
"Helping active adults overcome persistent aches, pains and injuries, so they can get back to the activities they love and improve their health naturally - without pain medication, injections or surgery."
Oregon City, OR
Dr. Julie Krueger