Staying flexible has important health benefits for people of all ages.
How and when we hold a stretch could also have an impact on performance, recovery time and risk of injury.
‘STATIC’ VS ‘DYNAMIC’ – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
According to the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City there is limited evidence to suggest that ‘static stretching’, or holding a stretch while remaining still, benefited athletic performance, where power was required.
It seems the most effective way to gain flexibility and enable high performance at the same time may be through ‘dynamic stretching’, where you are constantly moving as you stretch the muscles. This may be through warm-up exercises such as star-jumps, lunges, legs swings or arm circles.
Physical therapist and clinical researcher, Dr Phil Page says that, in general, it appears that static stretching is most beneficial for athletes requiring flexibility for their sports (e.g. gymnastics, dance, etc.).
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
At the end of the day, everyone is different. Static, dynamic, and pre-contraction stretching are all effective methods of increasing flexibility and muscle extensibility; however, these modes may be more effective in specific populations. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy recommends an individualized response to stretching.
In the long-term stretching can help maintain balance and strength, as well as improve blood circulation and give you a wider range of motion in your joints. This is particularly important in older people, to preserve the range of motion required to perform daily tasks and other physical activity. It may also act as a form of low-intensity exercise in older people or those with a disability.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO GET IT DONE
Activities such as yoga or pilates may be a good way to use dynamic stretching to build strength in your core muscles for better posture, balance and flexibility over the long-term.
Remember to check with your doctor or health professional before stretching if you have an injury, are unsure of how to stretch properly or have had a previous injury.
Do you regularly stretch before or after exercise? Do you feel it offers you any benefits?