Content Map Terms

Getting Started With Flexibility and Stretching

British Columbia Specific Information

Physical activity has so many benefits to your health. It can help you get to and stay at a healthy body weight, reduce the risk of bone fractures if you have osteoporosis, and can reduce the risk of many other illnesses like cancer and heart disease. For most people, participating in physical activity is safe. However, some people should check with their health care provider or a qualified exercise professional before they start becoming more physically active.

For information on the benefits of physical activity, setting goals and overcoming barriers, as well as safety tips and precautions, visit the Physical Activity section of our website.

If you have questions about physical activity or exercise, call 8-1-1 to speak to a qualified exercise professional, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm Pacific Time, or you can Email Physical Activity Services. You can also leave a message after hours.

Topic Overview

Stretching will help you as you become more active. It may help prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness and cramping. It will also help you with everyday tasks, such as tasks where you need to reach for things or bend over.

Types of stretches include a calf stretch, groin stretch, and hamstring stretch.

Here's one approach to stretching:

  • Warm up your muscles first. Take 5 to 10 minutes to do light aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging in place.
  • Stretch for 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Try to hold each stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Be sure to stretch the muscles you will be using when you exercise.
    • Ease yourself into the stretch, relax, and don't push or bounce. You should feel a stretch that might be a little uncomfortable, but not painful.
    • Breathe normally as you do the stretch.
    • Try closing your eyes while stretching. It helps you relax and reduces self-consciousness and the urge to compete.
    • Take a moment to enjoy the good, warm feeling that comes after a good stretch.
  • Do your exercise program.
  • Cool down after your program by taking another 5 to 10 minutes to stretch. Your muscles are usually very warm and will benefit from stretching and lengthening to improve your overall flexibility and reduce soreness.

You don't have to limit stretching to an activity warm up. You can stretch anytime: First thing in the morning, during your coffee break, or in the office for a few minutes. You can also try activities that include stretching, such as dance, martial arts (aikido or karate), tai chi, or yoga.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Improving flexibility. Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 151–164. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

Current as of:
September 10, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Heather Chambliss PhD - Exercise Science
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine