Flexibility is the secret sauce that enables us to move safely and easily, and the way to stay limber is to stretch. "People don't always realize how important stretching is to avoiding injury and disability," says Elissa Huber-Anderson, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

When you stretch a muscle, you extend the tissue to its full length. If you hold that tension long enough, the muscle will be longer once it relaxes again. The more often you stretch your muscles, the longer and more flexible they'll become. Here’s what you can expect as a result of regular stretching:

  • increased range of motion

  • reduced risk for muscle and joint injury

  • reduced joint and back pain

  • improved balance, thus reducing your risk of falling

  • improved posture

Remember, it's crucial to warm up your muscles before you stretch them. That means getting blood and oxygen to the tissue to make it more pliable and amenable to change. If you don't warm up, a stretch can damage the muscle fibers.

One way to warm up is dynamic stretching. "This is when you move a joint through its available range of motion repeatedly, without holding a position," says Huber-Anderson. Types of dynamic stretching include rolling your shoulders, lifting your knees, and sweeping your arms out to the sides and up to the ceiling repeatedly. Two to five minutes of dynamic stretching is a good recommendation.

Do you still have questions about stretching and what would work best for you? 

Source: “Stretching: The New Mobility Protection”, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical Schoo