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Stretching, though often overlooked, plays a vital role in keeping muscles and joints strong and pliable so they are less susceptible to injury. That’s why it’s such an important part of warming up before physical activity and cooling down after.

Spending a few minutes a day doing slow, deliberate stretches can also help you manage stress more effectively — giving you a chance to momentarily shut off outside stressors, and focus, physically and mentally, on your activity.

Books and articles describing specific stretches abound.  A good routine should work each of the major muscle groups, and needn’t take long. Five to 10 minutes is all you need. Be sure to scan the “Rules To Stretch By” before you begin.

Rules to Stretch By

  • Warm up First: warm muscles, tendons, and ligaments are more flexible and stretch more easily; stretching “cold” muscles can cause tears.
  • Stretches should always be gradual and gentle.
  • Hold each stretch in a static position for 10 to 20 seconds, allowing the muscles to lengthen slowly.
  • Do not bounce; bouncing actually causes muscle fibers to shorten, not lengthen.
  • Stretch only to the point of resistance; if the stretch hurts, you’re pushing to hard.
  • Don’t rush through the stretching routine; use it to prepare yourself mentally and physically for activity.

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