what are the benefits of stretching?



I often hear from people that they don’t need a daily stretch routine because they will never be flexible or because it’s boring and they would rather go biking, hiking, etc. Other people have good intentions, but often find less and less time to get a regular stretching routine into their day. And I get it! It’s not the most glamorous type of exercise. But as we age and our muscles become less flexible, our joints become stiffer, and we may not be as active, we NEED to stretch to maintain our mobility and independence and to prevent injury.


There are many benefits to stretching for those young and old, active and inactive, or flexible and inflexible. The main benefit is to improve the flexibility of certain muscles to improve or maintain your joint range of motion. More range of motion can allow you better performance with your desired activities like tennis, golf, or pickleball. It can decrease your risk for injuries when performed properly after a warm-up or exercise.

It can also allow your muscles to work more effectively if they have more length and can move through a greater range of motion for more speed or power. Unfortunately, stretching does need to happen regularly in order to see and maintain the benefits, ideally at least a little bit every day of the week!

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There are a lot of muscles in the body (over 600 in fact)! So where do you start? You don’t need to try to stretch every little muscle, instead focus on large groups. If you know you have particular areas of difficulty, start there. In the lower body, your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and low back/glutes are great areas to start at. In the upper body, your shoulders, neck and mid-back muscles, and wrists are a wonderful place to focus especially if you sit at a desk all day.

The other important thing is DO NOT stretch cold muscles. Perform a light walk or jog before your stretch routine or perform them after your desired activity. If you jump right into it and the muscle fibers aren’t prepared you can damage them, so it is better to do at least some light movement first to increase blood flow to the area and make your muscles more pliable.

Try not to bounce, holding for at least 30-60 seconds on each side for the optimal benefit. Attempt to breathe normally and DO NOT stretch into pain. You may feel some tension or discomfort, but we are not of the NO PAIN, NO GAIN mentality for this activity.

Read how therapeutic yoga can help you with your lower back pain.


Unfortunately, one stretching routine will not make you super flexible or keep you limber for weeks. It will be a slow process and start with less physically demanding stretches, but slowly as you increase your flexibility and perform it daily you will notice changes. It took months to get to the degree of tightness you are experiencing so it may take months to get out of this position.

Is stretching really necessary? Click here to find out.

Be patient and forgiving with yourself. Yoga is a great practice to start if you want to gain flexibility as it is easier to see your progress and the ability to perform or maintain certain postures than it can be with static stretching.

The hardest part of any new habit is committing to it and making it a priority. Try to find a time in your schedule where you can commit at least 10 minutes a day to yourself to improve your flexibility and maintain your independence. This is one of the best activities to make sure you age gracefully and stay as active as you can for as long as possible!

Wondering what kind of stretches I mean? Check out this technique video with one of our favorite PTAs, Jessica, targeting your ankles:


If you are still concerned about what areas you need to stretch or how to incorporate this into a daily routine, talk to a physical therapist. They are able to assess your muscle strength and muscle length to help you make a more customized routine for your specific activities!

Alyssa Charbonneau, PT, DPT, ATC, Cert-DN
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