Stretching before and after your workout is important in helping to prevent injuries and keep you flexible, but the type of stretching you do before and after working out should be different!
Before your workout, you want to do dynamic stretches. These are stretches that involve movement and help warm up your muscles for more intense activity. Try arm and hip circles, rolling your shoulders, marching with high knees, and leg swings. Try to do about 10 repetitions of each stretch.
Perform these stretches before being active to warm up the same muscles you plan to use in your main workout–for example, runners should focus on getting their legs moving with a brisk walk, while swimmers might focus more on their arms with arm circles and shoulder rolls.
After your workout, you want to do static stretches. This type of stretch involves holding the same position for 15-30 seconds. These stretches are probably the type of stretching you are more familiar with. It can include things like reaching for your toes, holding your arm across your chest, or bending your leg and holding in a quadricep stretch. Remember, these should only be done after you exercise while your muscles are warm to prevent injury!
Holding a stretch after working out helps your muscles recover faster, which could help prevent soreness and stiffness. These types of stretches are also helpful in improving flexibility and making sure your joints continue to move well as you age. After you exercise, make sure you are holding stretches for the same body parts you were just working out.
Remember: It’s okay if stretching pulls a little, but it should never be painful! If you are in pain, it means you are stretching too far. With both types of stretches, always be in control of your movements. Don’t flop around or throw your body into the stretch as this could result in injury.