We can’t beat around the bush about this any longer: Americans simply are not getting in enough physical activity each day! We’re leading very sedentary lives, with our jobs and working from home for most of last year. It’s simply not healthy.
Healthy adults should be making a point of getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. If you already know that you need to be more active, you may be preparing a regular exercise regimen of your own, which is awesome! That’s a great start, but don’t forget to finish correctly.
Stretching after your workout is just as important as stretching before. A few minutes of gentle “cool-down” exercises such as stretches can make the difference in how well your body responds to your new routine. Here are three reasons not to skip this critical part of your workout.
3 reasons NOT to skip post-workout stretches
Reason 1: Stretching after working out prevents the buildup of toxins.
You know that gnawing ache that develops in your muscles as you exercise? That reaction is caused by the presence of lactic acid!
Lactic acid is a natural byproduct of muscular exertion, along with the accumulation of another metabolic waste product called hydroxyproline.
Don’t worry, it’s not going to burn you! However, you don’t want it hanging around in your muscles for long, but that’s exactly what they’ll do until you show them the door with some post-exercise stretches.
The longer these substances pool in your tissues, the more soreness you’ll experience in the 24 to 48 hours following your workout. You might gain a few minutes on your hectic schedule, but you’ll pay the price in terms of pain — and you might even have to delay or reduce your next workout as a result.
Reason 2: Stretching allows you to gently and slowly lower your heart rate.
One of the great benefits of moderate exercise is its ability to elevate your heart rate for sustained periods. This controlled stress helps to strengthen the heart muscle, boost your circulation, and deliver extra oxygen to your muscles.
Healthline states: ‘Cooldown exercises and stretches lower your chance of injury, promote blood flow, and reduce stress to your heart and other muscles.”Post-exercise stretches are called “cool-downs” for a reason. They gradually, gently bring your vital signs back down to their normal ranges, preventing too-rapid blood pooling and the lightheadedness that might cause a serious fall or other accident.
Your physical therapist will always guide you through cool-down stretches after vigorous exercise to ensure that you get maximum benefits from your workout without these unwanted post-workout side effects.
Once that workout is over, however, it’s time to return to homeostasis (your body’s natural resting state). You don’t want to walk away from your physical therapy sessions or home exercise routine with a pounding heart, abnormal blood pressure and a dizzy head!
Reason 3: Stretching Helps to Prevent Post-Workout Injuries
As you exercise, your muscles get into the habit of pulling tightly against tendon attachments. After you stop exercising, those tissues are still tense and tight, lending themselves to strains, sprains, and the development of chronic inflammatory pain. Stretches coax the tissues to relax and resume their former length, restoring their suppleness and making them less prone to post-workout damage.
If you’re putting in the time and effort to stick to an exercise routine, either on your own or as part of a physical therapy program, you definitely don’t want to strain a muscle right after the exercise session is over. Make sure you’re doing your stretches after your exercise routine ends; your body will thank you down the road.
A physical therapist can guide you through a post workout stretching routine
If you’ve been neglecting post-workout stretching, you’re not alone. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed! This is a common mistake people make when they are not used to exercising. If you’re getting more exercise to combat a physical issue such as chronic pain, you might even do yourself more harm than good without the proper guidance.
Our physical therapist can help you develop a healthy post-workout stretching routine. Call our clinic today to learn more about the benefits of physical therapy, and let us show you how to make the most out of your workouts!