Stretching is hardly the sexiest part of anyone’s routine. Whether or not you’re a fitness buff, it’s the kind of thing we know we should be doing, but often find hard to fit into our busy lives.
However, we’re here to remind you that you really shouldn’t skip it. “Stretching is an integral part of our fitness and health,” explains Michelle Njagi, senior physiotherapist at Bupa Health Clinics. “Stretching is really important because it keeps muscles flexible, it keeps them healthy and strong, and it’s really important for the range of movement in the joints as well – if you don’t have flexibility in the muscles, you’re not going to be able to move as much in the joints and you’ll be limited in what you can and can’t do.
“Without it, muscles become shorter and tighter. For example, if you do have quite tight hamstrings – the muscle at the back of your legs – it can make everyday things like walking harder, and can cause things like lower back pain.”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need to stretch if you’re not a fitness fanatic either. “If anything it’s more important,” says Njagi. “It’s the age old saying: If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s really important, especially if you do have quite a static lifestyle where you work at a desk, that you do try and move as much as you can.”
If you regularly exercise, not properly warming up and cooling down can lead to getting “injured more easily through strains and pulling muscles,” says Njagi.
It’s still crucial even if you don’t do HIIT five times a week. Njagi explains: “If you’re not exercising much, you might feel like you can go about your day normally, but there will be days when you’re doing everyday things like shopping or bending to reach something – if you’re not flexible enough, that’s when you can get things like pulled back muscles.
“You might not think you’ve been exercising, but it is a form of exercise – just in your everyday life. If you’re not able to move into those positions, you’re more likely to get general injuries.”