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Stretching has proven to decrease muscle stiffness, improve muscle tone, increase range of motion (flexibility), improve circulation, reduce risk of injury, decrease lower back pain, improve posture, aid in the management of stress, and improve muscle efficiency and overall body performance.
In order for stretching to be efficient, it must be performed properly. Before beginning a stretching routine, the muscles should be properly warmed-up. This can be done with a low intensity exercise such a brisk walk, cycling, or stair climbing. Once the muscles are warmed-up, simple start up stretches can begin. A proper stretch should be done by only one major muscle group at a time and should never cause pain. Stretching to the point of pain can cause damage to your tendons, ligaments, and the muscle being stretched. Although many are taught at a young age to count while stretching, it is more important to hold the stretch until the muscle feels relaxed as opposed to holding it for a particular period of time. This will ensure that the muscle is fully stretched.
So, whether you are a seasoned athlete or an amateur out to make positive life changes in your body, never forget the importance of stretching. You will look better, feel better, and make more progress with your workouts. Plus, you will reap the benefits of good flexibility, and a sound mind. Remember, "A few minutes of stretching before you play can save you a lifetime of pain."
This excerpt was taken from, The importance of stretching. Prof. Dennis E. Daniels, MPH, Dr. PH and Nichole Liggins. Issue date: 2/15/06 Section: Lifestyles