stretch to stay injury-free

Stretch to Stay Injury-Free While Getting Active

Spring abounds! So it’s time to get back outdoors, where you can get active and vary that winter exercise routine—whether you’re participating in sports, biking or running or hiking a trail, the possibilities are endless. But while you’re trekking about the wild outside, make sure you’re aware of potential risks for injury.

For insight, we turn to Joe Goodwin, PT, OCS, CFMT, a physical therapist at Methodist Hospital for Surgery, who sheds light on the best ways to avoid sport or exercise-related injuries.

Save the Static, Start with Dynamic

You’ve probably been told before to stretch before working out. “Not so,” says Goodwin.

“Stretching prior to sports may actually be harmful. Multiple studies have shown that static stretching before physical activity actually increases the risk of injury.” Static stretching is simply stretching individual muscles while the rest of your body is still.

The alternative? Dynamic warm-up routines. Dynamic stretching is “active” stretching that focuses on several muscle groups at once and simultaneously works to warm up the arms, legs and back. The result is a nice stretch and gentle rise in heart rate as blood flow increases.

But static stretching still has its place. Static stretches after a game or workout help maintain normal range of motion in the joints and maximize the overall muscle performance. Because tight muscles have a limited range and produce less force, stretching after athletics—when muscles are warmed up—produces the best outcome and minimizes the risk of injury.

You’ll Regret A Neglected Stretch

If you neglect stretching altogether, you’ll probably experience decreased range of motion in your joints and muscular force, causing other muscle groups to work harder.

“Causing a muscle group to work harder puts excess strain on an area of the body that cannot handle it, which can result in injury.” And injury can be a minor muscle pulls or major tears in the muscles and ligaments, which will require lengthy recovery periods.

Overall, Goodwin suggests that you warm up by performing your planned activity on a lighter scale. For example, if you’re going to play soccer, go for a light jog or pass and kick the ball for 5-10 minutes, and then move to a dynamic warm up that loosens the joints. When you’re ready to wrap it up, don’t forget the static stretches to loosen and lengthen all of your major muscle groups.

Troublesome joints killing your outdoor game? The expert physical therapists at Methodist Hospital for Surgery can help you get back to peak performance.

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