Flex Time: Stretching is the Best Medicine


Feeling a little tight? You might try out a new stretch to improve your flexibility. Stretching can reduce your risk of getting injured during a workout and improve your physical performance. We’ll help get you started with a six-part video series demonstrating both static and dynamic stretches for the whole body. Up first: Let’s stretch those shoulder and chest muscles.

View All Flex Time Videos:
Flex Time Part 2   Flex Time Part 3   Flex Time Part 4   Flex Time Part 5   Flex Time Part 6  

Even if it’s a walk around the block, a simple warmup before you step out will increase blood and nutrient supply to your muscles and can reduce soreness after your fitness class, softball game or neighborhood jog with the dog. Post-activity stretches will aid in flexibility and recovery.

Matt Gardner, health and fitness coordinator for Hometown Health demonstrates dynamic and active stretches for your chest and shoulders.

Dynamic and Static Stretching: What’s the difference?

Our experts recommend two types of stretching: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to exercise to prepare joints for movement and muscles for optimal activation. Dynamic stretches are held for two-to-three seconds before switching. Static sustained stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint or a muscle that is minimally challenging and held for 20-30 seconds before switching.

The goal behind a dynamic warm up is to emulate the movements you are about to perform. This is much more beneficial than a static stretch before exercise because it elevates your heart rate which increases blood flow, raises your body temperature and mimics the movements you are about to do. Mimicking movements in a controlled range of motion before actual performance is crucial to your body reacting the way you would like it to during performance without overstretching the muscles and potentially causing hyperextension.

Along with mimicking movements, elevating your heart rate — which increases blood flow causing your body temperature to rise — is a key factor in injury prevention. Raising the core body temperature allows more flexibility, which is directly correlated with an increased range of motion to prevent strains and tears.

Static stretching is a major component to recovery. After you have finished exercising or participating in an outdoor activity or sporting event, your heart rate and body temperature are both elevated. Static stretching is a great way to decrease your heart rate and body temperature while maximizing flexibility and increasing range of motion. The benefit from greater flexibility with an increased range of motion is directly correlated with reducing the possibility of injuries.

Both methods are extremely beneficial and can help you with performance and recovery when done at appropriate times.

Additional Tips for Stretching

  • Stretch until you are about to reach the point of discomfort.
  • The feeling of tightness should diminish as you hold the stretch.
  • Exhale into the stretch. Avoid holding your breath.
  • If tightness intensifies or you feel pain, stop the stretch.
  • Shake out limbs between stretches.