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Why stretching is an important part of a fitness routine By Neha Jiwrajkar

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Benefits of stretching exercises

For a good fitness routine

Ever woken up after an intense workout the previous day and nearly fallen out of bed because everything hurts and you can barely blink, leave alone walk? There’s a very good reason for this and it can easily be avoided.
A good, safe exercise routine should always begin and end with stretches that work the entire body, especially the parts being targeted in the workout. You could do this at the gym, with a personal trainer, in a group fitness class or when you’re working out at home.
Going back to the basics of exercising, when a certain movement in your exercise increases the stress on your muscle spindles (parallel to muscle fibers), this information is relayed to the brain which instructs your muscles to contract. This is called the “Stretch Reflex” and is the body’s way of ensuring that your muscles don’t tear during physical exertion. Without this mechanism, the muscles would keep stretching till their fibers snapped. The idea behind stretching is to slowly and gradually easing muscles into a stretch, thereby delaying the onset of the stretch reflex and achieving a greater range of movement.
The same principal applies to after workout-cooling down stretches. They stimulate the brain to release the muscle contraction gradually, allowing the muscles to lengthen and return to their normal position. Cooling down stretches gradually increase your flexibility and brings the body back to a state of rest.
The most commonly performed method of cooling down exercises is static stretching as this has an incredibly low risk of injury. The muscle is placed under mild to moderate tension and held in that position for a short period of time. This is suitable for exercises of all levels. I have listed a few stretches that are a must, both before and after any workout you do.
  • In a standing position, grab hold of your ankle and pull back to feel the stretch in the front of your thigh.
  • Lie on your back and keeping one knee bent, straighten the other leg and pull back gently to feel the stretch in your hamstrings (back of the thighs).
  • Get down on all fours, arch your back and round it to alternately stretch the chest and back.
  • Reach out to the side while standing and feel the stretch in your sides.
If you’re doing stretches for the first time, please ensure they are being supervised by a trainer.
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