We all recognize that physical fitness is an important part of healthy living along with nutrition and proper mental health. However, there is one aspect of fitness which often gets forgotten: flexibility. Proper stretching can help us avoid injury, recover more quickly and have a more enjoyable time during our workouts.

When we exercise our muscles are stressed and pushed to the point of causing micro-tears. These tears then cause lactic acid to build up which if not managed correctly can cause pain and injury. Stretching helps us manage this muscle growth and makes it more likely our body will perform the way we want it to during an exercise routine.

In a recent article Harvard Medical School describes the effects of stretching or a lack there of: “when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched. Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury.”

Stretching can be seen as a kind of lubricant that keeps muscles moving and flexible. It allows us to push our body while also bouncing back from the burden we put it through. And fortunately it only takes a few minutes to make a big difference. You can even add practices like yoga and pilates to your flexibility routine and have a great experience.

There are a ton of flexibility and stretching routines and tutorials online that can help you get started. You can also find stretches specific to the sport you are training for- such as stretching the shoulders and neck for swim training.

What are your favorite ways to stretch your muscles? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section.