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Stretching Your Way to a
Flexible Body

by Jennifer Hogg, A.T.,C
of Sports Medicine Programs, Northeast Rehabilitation Health Network

Flexibility has a number of benefits.
Good flexibility can prevent injuries and enhance athletic
performance. Stretching is the best way to achieve good flexibility.
By stretching you can help your coordination, increase circulation to
the muscle and increase your range of motion which will help to
prevent athletic injuries. There are two types of stretching: Passive
stretching – is the most gentle and preferred method of stretching
where the muscle is held in an lengthened position and then released.
Assisted Passive stretching – is another method of stretching that
starts with the passive stretching technique then adds assistance
from another individual or gravity. This method will stretch
the muscles more, but the there is a greater possibility of injury

Stretching should be done everyday. It
is suggested that one should stretch before and after activities. One
should begin with passive stretching moving onto assisted passive
stretching making sure not to overdo. How long you hold a stretch is
called duration. The suggested duration per stretch is 30 seconds. How
many time you do one particular stretch is called a repetition. The
suggested number of repetition per stretch is 5-7.

When one stretches it should not be
painful. If the athlete feels pain then they are stretching too hard
and should back off to the point just shy of the pain. Stretching
should be done to the point of the muscle tightness and then just
slightly beyond. Do not force any stretch. It is also important not to
bounce when stretching. Both stretching to the point of pain and
bouncing can actually do more harm than good to the muscle and tendon

Different activities require different
levels of flexibility, depending on the parts of the body that are
used and the level of stress applied to these body parts. One thing is
for certain and that is every activity requires a minimum amount of
flexibility in order to perform the activity. If one stretches
regularly and correctly, the athlete will find his or her movements
gradually become easier and they will most likely perform their
activity at a better level.

For further instruction on how to
stretch properly and to create a proper stretching program that is
right for you, consult your sports medicine professional at Northeast
Rehabilitation Health Network Sports Medicine Division at (603)
893-2900 x606.