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Benefits of Stretching After Exercise

Before you exercise, do you stretch? Here’s a better question. After you exercise, do you stretch? So often people stretch before a run or game of tennis or whatever it is that keeps people active but rarely do people take the time to stretch afterwards. Some say it’s more important to stretch after exercise than before for various reasons such as muscle recovery, increased blood flow and reduction of stiffness.

Blood Flow

Let’s start with the benefit that causes all the other benefits; increased blood flow. Static stretching (the stretching of a single muscle lasting approximately 30 seconds) will temporarily reduce the blow flow due to vascular compression and lengthening. Immediately after stretching, blood is released at an increased level than before the post exercise stretch. One could compare it to letting go of a pinched water hose. Although the research has not been confirmed, this increase in blood flow may improve nutrient delivery to the muscles and with removing metabolites.

Muscle Soreness

As much as we want post exercise stretching to relieve us from any muscle soreness, it’s not going completely rid you of any and all soreness after a rigorous workout. With that being said, the increased blood flow and the stretching of muscle tissue wanting to tighten up will help, especially as we age.

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS)

Sometimes called the “rest and digest” system, the parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate and increases intestinal and gland activity. Basically, PSNS slows the body down from excitement or relaxes the body. This relaxation begins the recovery phase. Post exercise stretching has been shown to increase short-term and long-term Parasympathetic Nervous System modulation. This modulation improves heart rate variability, which is always good for the old ticker.

Flexibility

Traditionally, one will stretch before exercise to increase range of motion and simply to help warm up the muscles that are about to be used. But many suggest that post exercise stretching is more important to long lasting flexibility.

Conclusion

Stretching after exercise is not a must but can be helpful, especially as we age and become less aggressively mobile. Five minutes is all you need and it’s a small price to pay for less stiffness. Here is a link for some quick and easy post exercise stretches.

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