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Stretching and Health

Girl StretchingNot everyone can touch their toes, but a good program of warm-ups and stretching can make a big difference in flexibility.

In fact, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) says that an overall fitness program isn't complete if it only emphasizes strength training and/or aerobics; stretching needs to be included as well. And the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says every workout should start with a warm-up and stretching. And don't forget a cool down and proper stretching at the end of your workout as well.

ACE says the right stretching program can lead to a number of benefits including:

Some stretching programs such as yoga (Read about yoga in "CAM Therapies") can even promote mental and physical relaxation. And by including stretching, you add some variety to your workouts, which may encourage you to stick with it. (Read about "Staying With It")

Getting started

As with any program of physical fitness, a person's ability to stretch usually improves with practice. Here are some tips from ACE:

AAFP says it's also a good idea to stretch gently at the end of aerobic or weight training activity to let your muscles cool down.

Special health needs

Gentle stretching on the advice of a qualified healthcare professional can also help certain physical conditions such as arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, range-of-motion exercises can improve joint mobility and may even decrease pain. (Read about "Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases") The Arthritis Foundation says some people find it easier to stretch after a warm bath or shower, which tends to warm the muscles up. Aquatic programs, specially designed for people with chronic health problems, can also be helpful. Always ask your doctor before starting a fitness program. And, if taking an exercise class, alert the instructor to any special needs or problems you might have.

Related Information:

    Getting Started

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By printing and/or reading this article, you agree that you accept all terms and conditions of use, as specified online.