Physical activity can get addicting over time — which is great, since it’s common knowledge that regular exercising promotes good health. However, we have to remember that exercising is still a form of stress. While physical improvements in the form of larger and more defined muscles are extra motivation to go hard in the gym, it’s still important that we keep tabs on having an ample amount of time to recover in between our workouts.
This is why recovery is arguably the most vital part of physical exercises. Other than helping your body heal from continuous physical stress, recovery also keeps you from further straining your body. Post-workout recovery exists in many forms, like taking an ice bath or getting a relaxing massage. But in this post, we’ll take a deep dive into why stretching is the best post-workout recovery activity.
Why is it important to stretch after exercising?
A post-workout stretch brings a number of wonderful benefits to your body. Firstly, stretching after a gruelling workout mitigates your body’s production of lactic acid. Despite being a completely normal end product of muscle metabolism, On Health's Dr. Richard Weil notes that the accumulation of lactic acid can make you feel more sore and fatigued. A soothing stretch after an intense workout releases the lactic acid in your muscles, which in turn, instantly gives you a relaxed feeling.
Aside from that, a proper recovery stretch smoothly eases your heart rate back to normalcy. If you were to just stop abruptly after a high power workout, you risk prolonging your fast heart rate and end up fainting.
Another great benefit of recovery stretches is that they loosen up your muscles and prevent them from creating larger muscle tears that could lead to injuries. Loosening your muscle tissues through post-workout stretches also allows you to move your muscles with full mobility.
Furthermore, there are a couple of mental and psychological effects that prove the worth of recovery stretches. As you do a cool-down stretch, your brain releases endorphins — also known as the happy hormone. Other than boosting your mood, releasing endorphins through stretching can also relieve the pain and stress caused by your workout. Finally, the time you do your post-workout stretches can also be used to meditate and reflect — thus further inducing a relaxing feeling.
Now that you’re aware of why recovery stretches are essential in a workout, here’s how you can do post-workout stretches.
What kinds of post-exercise stretches induce recovery?
We firmly believe that stretching varies depending on the kind of workout that you did or the body part that hurts the most. While stretching can differ depending on an individual's workout routine, fitness expert Jacque Crockford urges that post workout static stretching can reduce muscle tension in any kind of physical activity. To do a static stretch, simply position your body into a stretch with the intent of elongating and pulling, then holding said position for 30-60 seconds.
For example, if you just did an intensive lower body exercise, you’d recover well by doing lower body stretches. The ever-popular butterfly stretch, where you sit with your legs bent at the knee and flat on the ground, is a great example of a lower-body stretch. While you do this, your thigh, glutes, and hamstring muscles are pulled away from each other, relieving the tension you just had from your exercise. However, if you tend to suffer from back pain, incorporating some gentle yoga stretches into your cool down routine might just do the trick. Pain Free Working’s Sheena Bergado recommends stretches like cat cow and forward fold, which entails you to stretch the entirety of your spine. From your neck to your lower waist, yoga stretches like cat cow and forward fold will surely ease any pain that you feel in your back.
It might come as a surprise, but even seemingly healthy activities like heavy exercising need to be properly eased out in order to maximize its effectiveness — and that’s exactly what recovery stretches aim to do. However, our post ‘Tips for Working Out in the Sun’ notes that no matter what kind of exercise you do, it’s important to listen to your body and stop if you’re pushing yourself too much. So, keep this in mind next time you do your workout and take extra care for your muscles by doing the proper post-workout stretches.
Exclusively for theboobuddy.com by Julie H.