Importance of stretching after exercise

Published March 26, 2014

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Exercise, whether it’s a quick routine at home to a workout DVD or an hour or two at the gym, is a vital part of healthy living. While most people who look after their health are mindful of stretching prior to a workout, there are many of us who fail to correctly cool down after exercise. The importance of this post-workout habit can’t be stressed enough as it can have real benefits for the body.

During exercise, lactic acid builds up in the muscles. This is what causes soreness and fatigue in the hours and days following a particularly hard work out. The primary effect of stretching after the body has built up this acid is that it will reduce the discomfort that follows, allowing the muscles to recover quicker than usual. An offshoot to this is that some people will skip a workout the next day due to soreness, so a short warm down routine may improve fitness by encouraging more workouts.

Alternatively, if a person exercises despite muscle soreness, there may be an increased chance of injury. This can either be through overuse or incorrect use that comes from trying to avoid the pain of movement with sore muscles. Another school of thought is that stretching post-exercise will help the mind calm down and put you in a good mental space.

These stretches only have to be in the vicinity of 5-10 minutes for the positive effects to kick in. An important thing to remember is to hold the stretch and not ‘bounce’ as this can do more harm than good. This will naturally bring your heart rate back to a normal level and help ensure the exercise doesn’t have a negative impact on the rest of your day.

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