Do I need to stretch both before and after doing cardio, or do I only need to stretch once (if so, when)?

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Answers (4)

Michelle Davidson (Physical Therapist) answered
So everyone has their own idea about stretching and whether you should stretch before or after a workout--or at all.  

What I have found to be the most helpful is a pre-workout dynamic stretching routine where you do quick movements in "functional positions" that prepare your body for movement. Then, after you finish your exercise, go ahead and do the slow static stretching to relax your muscles again.

Outside Magazine recently provided a short dynamic stretching routine and a video for runners and these stretches are some that I use frequently--

-jumping jacks in place 20x
-straight leg kicks in front of you while standing up tall  20x
-high marches in place while either walking or standing in place 20x
-kicking your own butt 20x

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Meghan commented
Super helpful--thank you!
Carolyn Collman, MS (exercise physiologist, nutritionist, aquatic therapist and wellness coach) answered
Muscles are like taffy - they are much more pliable when warm. Never stretch cold muscles, so I recommend starting your cardio workout with a gentle warmup pace and then, time permitting, do a brief stretch of your major muscle groups and then proceed to the body of your workout. Follow your workout with a more full-body, comprehensive stretch and then, if possible, take a warm shower. Too many people stretch then cool down and sit around in sweaty clothing and then tighten up and become chilled. If you don't have the time or the facility for a post-cardio shower, be sure to change into dry clothing. Another great time to stretch is after you shower.
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Marg answered
I was a dancer for a long time, and my teachers always recommended before-and-after stretching: slow, gentle stretches to help you ease into your class (or workout), followed by a more aggressive session afterward, when the muscles are warm, to maintain/improve your flexibility. But if you're super busy (who isn't?) and find it difficult to make time to stretch this way regularly, I've heard you can also do one stretching session at the end of the day, before bed, and reap many of the same benefits.
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