I’m often asked during training sessions, “should I stretch before or after I exercise?” Do you ever wonder about this exact question? If you’ve done any research on the topic, you’ve likely found it to be extremely controversial. There are many different opinions, thoughts and studies on it. My hope is, after reading this “Mimi’s Minute,” you will understand why this question can best be answered by listening to your body.
You probably know that stretching can improve muscle flexibility and joint range of motion, allowing you to move better with less restriction. Deciding whether to stretch before or after a workout really depends on how well you move.
If you know a particular joint is tight–say your hip–and this impacts your exercise, such as walking, it would be helpful to stretch the muscles around your hip before you go for a walk. Stretching will improve the flexibility of the muscles, increasing the joint’s range of motion. Without stretching, the hip may feel “stuck,” limiting your stride length and causing discomfort or pain at the ankle, knee, hip or lower back. In this scenario, it makes good sense to stretch the muscles around your hip before walking.
If you are not limited in your activities by joint and/ or muscle tightness, it makes more sense to stretch after exercise, when your body is warmer and more “receptive” to stretching. After a workout, your muscles will naturally tighten or “shorten” some. Stretching will restore them to their normal length and keep you feeling loose. Not to worry: if you stretched before exercise, it won’t hurt to stretch those muscles again after your workout.
Still uncertain about when to stretch? Contact me at [email protected]. I’d be happy to help you figure out what works best for you.