Updated: May 29, 2020
The following information is general and may not be suitable to your individual health status. Always check with your Doctor before starting an exercise programme and always follow your registered fitness / exercise professional's advice. See my previous disclaimer post.
Flexibility is defined as the amount of movement available at a joint or joints.
Poor flexibility can cause restricted movement, poor posture and mobility, pain and discomfort, greater risk of injuries and falls and impact on activities of daily living. Yet to increase one's flexibility is one of the most easy, pleasurable, things to do.
Stretches are normally carried out at the end of your exercise session when muscles, soft tissues, joints, ligaments and tendons are warm, soft and supple.
The main purpose of stretching after exercise is that your muscles have contracted many times to perform body movements and if not stretched back to normal length would remain in their shortened state, which is not desirable.
A separate stretching session to develop flexibility can be performed after a suitable warm up of 15 - 20 minutes (see my warm up and cool down post) This ensures adequate joint mobilisation and lubrication and warming of muscles and tissues prior to stretching. Never stretch cold muscles as this can lead to injury. If you think of a piece of Plasticine, when it's cold if you bend it, it snaps. Rub it between your hands and warm it up it becomes soft, pliable and bends without breaking. Your muscle fibres act in much the same way.
You should feel no pain when stretching and tension should be mild. Gradually increase the range of the stretch, breathing freely throughout. Depending on your personal circumstances stretches can be performed standing, seated in a chair, seated on the floor and lying.
Preparation stretches are performed during warm. These are only ever done standing and should be held for 10 -12 seconds. Post exercise and developmental stretches should be held between 10 and 60 seconds depending on your current health status.
Your stretching session has lots of health benefits both physically and mentally. It's a great time to zone out, chill out, reflect and have a bit of me time.