Common stretching mistakes

Stretching is critical component of physical fitness and overall health, so be sure to stretch correctly for the best results.

Stretching keeps muscles flexible, strong and healthy. The older we get, the more we need flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. If you don’t stretch regularly, the muscles shorten and become tight. So when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. This puts you at risk for joint pain, strains and muscle damage. Here are three tips to remember when you do your stretches.

Breathe

Sometimes we’re so focused on doing the stretch, we forget to consciously breathe. The more difficult the stretch, the more likely we are to hold our breath. But this is the last thing you want to do. Holding your breath or taking more shallow breaths prevents oxygen from reaching your muscles. As a result, muscles fatigue more quickly or experience unnecessary stress, which is the very thing you're trying to prevent by stretching. Breathing works against your natural inclination, as you should breathe out, not in, on exertion. During an inhale, you're sending the oxygen to your muscles. As you exhale, the muscle has the necessary fuel to accommodate a deeper stretch.

Avoid bouncing on your toes as you stretch

Bouncing as you stretch can injure your muscles and actually contribute to muscle tightness. Hold a stretch for 30 seconds without coming in and out of the position, unless it's painful. In this case, stop the stretch all together.

Stretch before working out or playing sport

You should stretch by holding static stretches for 30 seconds or less each, for at least five minutes total during a warm-up. People who do this, rather than a long warm-up, are significantly less likely to strain or tear a muscle while exercising. So, before your next workout, dedicate five minutes to a round of short stretching.