The flexible benefits of stretching

Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:17am EST
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Whether your workout routine involves running a marathon or playing a game of basketball, a sequence of stretching exercises is often the easiest thing to cut out of it.

That's a shame, experts say, because stretching can help you sharpen your performance, stave off injury, perk up your posture and even boost your mood.

"Essentially it's like trying to drive a car without first making sure all the tires are on it," said Los Angeles-based personal trainer Matt Berenc of the stretch-less routine. "Stretching is essentially preparing the body for movement."

Berenc, who manages trainers at Equinox, the U.S. national chain of fitness centers, said stretching is typically one of the simplest things to do and one of the first things people avoid.

"People value other parts of the workout above it. They say, 'I only have so much time, so I'll skip this'," he said, adding that if they took some time to focus on their stretch their workout would be better.

"If nothing else to create better movement throughout the body," he said.

In 2010 the American College of Sports Medicine issued guidelines recommending "a stretching exercise program of at least 10 minutes in duration involving the major muscle tendon groups of the body with four or more repetitions per muscle group performed on a minimum of two to three days per week" for most adults.

All stretches are not the same. A static stretch is essentially a stretch held in one position; dynamic stretching involves active movements.   Continued...