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Regular stretching increases flexibility and reduces the risk for injury. However, as with all exercise, form is important. Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good.
In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Glenn Shi, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, offers tips on doing the exercises correctly.
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"You should include stretching to your normal exercise routine for three main reasons," says Dr. Shi. "The first reason is that it can increase your range of motion in your joints."
Dr. Shi says stretching can potentially improve athletic performance and dramatically reduce the risk of injury.
"Post-workout stretches are very important because your muscles, at that time, are warm, and they’re very responsive to stretching," Dr. Shi explains.
He says you should hold stretches for around 30 seconds. Keep them gentle and slow, and avoid bouncing. And stop if there’s pain. Stretches like ones done on the quad muscles should create a sense of tension and stress across the muscle but no intense pain.
"When you’re at a point where it’s becoming painful, you can actually cause damage to the muscles as well as the ligaments," Dr. Shi stresses.
He says, when done right, stretching is fairly quick and very effective.
"Improving your flexibility after the workout can take as little as five to 10 minutes; however, it will pay dividends down the road," adds Dr. Shi.