Reporter Jason Howland explains in this Mayo Clinic Minute.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (0:58) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.
"Having flexible muscles and mobile joints can help reduce your overall injury risk. But it can also help improve your performance," says Dr. Chad Asplund, a Mayo Clinic sports medicine physician.
Stretching those muscles is a good way to increase flexibility, but there's a common mistake many people make.
"The old stretching before you work out has actually been shown to increase the rate of injuries," says Dr. Asplund. "And paradoxically, regular stretching done when the muscles are warm, such as after you work out, over the long term will make your muscles more flexible and lower your injury risk."
Rather than stretching before you exercise, do a dynamic warmup instead, such as running in place, jumping jacks or leg lifts.
"Things where you're engaging the muscles, but you're moving them. And you're getting them warm gradually as you progress into your workout," says Dr. Asplund
And then after the workout, perform stretches, which lengthen the muscles by placing them under tension.
"If you think about having a rubber band, if you have a really short rubber band and you yank it really hard, it's much more likely to tear than if that rubber band is a little bit longer," says Dr. Asplund.
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