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Stretch Toward Better Health

Focused on Health - February 2011

by Colleen Martin

woman stretchingRemember when you could do the splits? Even though you don’t have PE class anymore, stretching should still be part of your fitness routine. 

Keeping your muscles and joints healthy makes physical activity easier, more enjoyable and prevents injury.

Stretch to feel good

The healthy range of motion you develop through stretching also makes physical activity easier and more enjoyable. And, enjoying exercise is a good thing because doing it for about 30 minutes every day helps to reduce your chances of cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. 

“When done right, stretching helps you feel less sore after an intense workout,” says Corinna Perez, a fitness expert at MD Anderson. “It also improves your flexibility, allowing you to exercise for longer, more heart-pounding sessions.”

Other great stretching benefits include improved posture, decreased muscle tension and healthier joints.

Maximize your stretch

man stretching

Follow these tips to get the most out of your stretching.

  1. Don’t stretch cold muscles.
    Warm up for 5-10 minutes by walking, cycling or using an elliptical machine. Then stretch. Stretching cold muscles can lead to injury. 
  2. Maintain proper posture.
    Avoid injury by keeping your back straight.
  3. Don’t force it.
    Stretch in gentle, slow movements. Never bounce or be forceful.
  4. Remember to breathe.
    Take long, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  5. Stretch all day.
    Perez suggests stretching every hour during the day for at least 5-10 minutes to stay loose and relaxed. Taking time to stretch also gives you a quick energy boost and increases blood flow, which is beneficial for overall health and helps organs like the lungs and heart function better.
  6. Know your limitations.
    Don’t overdo a stretch. And, always check with your doctor and make sure you are healthy enough for a new stretch or fitness regimen.

Make stretching a priority when you work out. The long-term benefits are worth the few extra minutes, and you’ll be more likely to keep your joints healthy and enjoy exercising for many more years.

Related Links

Stretch Out Your Workout (MD Anderson)
5 Easy Stretches You Can Do at Work (Everyday Health)
Is Stretching Really Important? (American Institute for Cancer Research)
Stretching Made Easy (American Institute for Cancer Research)
Yoga Benefits Include Preventing Cancer (MD Anderson)

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center