How much physical activity are you getting in your daily routine? Healthy adults should be making a point of getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. If you already know that you need to be more active, you may be preparing a regular exercise regimen of your own!
That’s a great start, but make sure that you’re doing it correctly from start to finish. When you workout, it’s important to stretch both before and after you finish exercising. A few minutes of gentle “cool-down” stretches can make a difference in how well your body responds to your new workout routine.
Here are four reasons not to skip this critical step in your workout!
Reason 1: Stretching rids your body of toxins.
You may have felt that familiar gnawing ache that develops in your muscles as you exercise. This is caused by the presence of lactic acid buildup. Lactic acid is a natural byproduct of muscular exertion, along with the accumulation of another metabolic waste product called hydroxyproline.
The longer these substances pool in your tissues, the more soreness you’ll experience in the 24 to 48 hours following your workout. You might gain a few minutes on your hectic schedule, but you’ll pay the price in terms of pain — and you might even have to delay or reduce your next workout as a result.
Even though these substances occur naturally, you don’t want these toxic substances hanging out for long in your muscles — but that’s exactly what they’ll do until you take part in some post-exercise stretches to get rid of them.
Reason 2: Stretching Helps to Prevent Post-Workout Injuries
Imagine putting in the time and effort to exercise only to strain a muscle right after the exercise session is over. How frustrating! Unfortunately, if you don’t stretch after a workout, this is absolutely a possibility.
As you exercise, your muscles get into the habit of pulling tightly against tendon attachments. After you stop working out and begin to cool off, those tissues are still tense and tight, lending themselves to strains, sprains, and the development of chronic inflammatory pain.
Stretching can coax the tissues to relax and resume their former length, restoring their suppleness and making them less prone to post-workout damage.
Reason 3: Stretching can help slow your heart rate down safely.
Post-exercise stretches are called “cool-downs” for a reason. They gradually, gently bring your vital signs back down to their normal ranges. This prevents your blood from pooling too quickly and causing lightheadedness that can result in dangerous falls.
One of the great benefits of moderate exercise is its ability to elevate your heart rate for sustained periods. This controlled stress helps to strengthen the heart muscle, boost your circulation, and deliver extra oxygen to your muscles.
Once your workout ends, however, it’s time to return to homeostasis (your body’s natural resting state). You don’t want to walk away from your physical therapy sessions or home exercise routine with a pounding heart, abnormal blood pressure, or feelings of dizziness!
Your physical therapist will always guide you through cool-down stretches after vigorous exercise to ensure that you get maximum benefits from your workout without these unwanted post-workout side effects.
4. Stretching provides stress relief.
Everyday life throws lots of challenges at you, and the resulting stress can be held in your muscles. Stretching provides numerous benefits to help your body keep itself healthier. One of the most important of these is stress relief.
When you experience tightness, spasms, and chronic discomforts such as headaches and neck pain, it causes your muscles to hold stress. Stress floods your body with “fight or flight” hormones such as cortisone and adrenaline. These imbalances can suppress your immune function, making you more vulnerable to viruses and other diseases. Regular stretches help your body release all that pent-up stress.
By relaxing and loosening your muscles, you can maintain better control over your blood pressure, avoid chronic muscle pain, and keep your immune system ready for anything!
Need assistance with learning new stretches?
If you’re getting more exercise to combat a physical issue such as chronic pain, you might even do yourself more harm than good without the proper guidance. If you have been neglecting post-workout stretches, know that you’re not alone, and help is available! Our physical therapist can provide the kind of guidance you’re looking for — so contact New York City Wellness today.