Is stretching considered an exercise? Not quite

NWe all love to work up a sweat. But with the mental and physical health benefits of exercise constantly touted, those of us who aren’t exactly gym rats might be wondering: What if I just stretched? Would that be “sufficient”?

It matters, according to Lululemon studio trainer Xtina Jensen, who is a certified personal trainer specializing in stretching, barre, boxing, cardio and strength training.

“Agility training is an absolutely vital component of any exercise program and can certainly be used as a recovery method on days off,” she says. “But as much as we should all have stretching as a regular part of our exercise regimen, it will serve us best when used in a balanced program.”

Is stretching considered an exercise?

While many fitness routines involve stretching, you’ll often find that stretching at the beginning and end of an exercise class or app-led sweat session accounts for just eight to 10 minutes. And when programs suggest active recovery stretch days, it’s to complement the strength and cardio workouts that fill in the rest of the week.

The reason? strain Is a beneficial form of exercise, but as a single component of a fitness routine, it’s not enough to provide you with the health benefits that more intense activity could bring.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that American adults do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (or a combination), ideally spread out throughout the week. They also suggest targeted muscle-strengthening activities two days a week that target all major muscle groups.

Unfortunately, stretching accomplishes neither of these two goals. Of course, any movement is definitely better than no movement! But if you really want to improve your fitness, you’re going to need some daily stretching.

Does it matter whether the stretching is static or dynamic?

While dynamic stretching (where you’re constantly moving) is more likely to challenge your muscles and get your blood flowing than static stretching (where you’re stationary), neither is enough to cut it as your only form of movement.

“Most research has shown that combining static and dynamic stretching not only creates more flexibility and range of motion, but can also reduce a person’s risk of injury,” she says. “But you won’t find that stretching alone is a great form of exercise.”

In fact, if you just focus on stretching every day, you can overdo it. “Too much of one thing isn’t good for anyone, and the same concept certainly applies to stretching,” says Jensen. “Stretching too much can cause muscle and joint relaxation, which in turn can lead to injury over time.”

What if it’s an active recovery day?

In general, an active recovery day is a rest day from a strenuous exercise routine like weightlifting, HIIT, or race training. “Flexibility training can certainly be used as a recovery method on days off,” she says. “Smooth movements are great, and some days our bodies require something nice and light, such as a t-shirt. B. a stretching class.”

Typically, one to three active recovery days per week is best, leaving the other days for cardio or strength-based activities.

What about yoga?

While some people associate yoga with stretching, anyone who’s taken a serious Vinyasa or Ashtanga class can attest that it does a lot more than just your flexibility.

“Yoga has grown in popularity exponentially because it’s a beautiful balance of work that involves both strength and stretching in a harmonious mind-body synergy,” says Jensen. Take a recovery class for an active recovery option, or opt for a more force-driven flow as a standalone workout.

Try this energizing yoga flow to loosen up both And strong:

Why it’s still important to stretch

Stretching alone may not be enough to make you feel good, but it’s important for moving through life. “Stretching can be used in so many ways and can even help reduce the risk of pattern overuse injury (eg,” says Jensen.

When it comes to stretching, Jensen says listen to your body. “Everything we feel is a signal, a sign or a symptom of how we are treating our bodies,” she explains. If you find yourself feeling tight, unsteady, or achy, it may be time to start stretching.

And if you don’t, your flexibility will surely fade over time. “That silly saying, ‘Use it or lose it,’ is true and certainly applies to our bodies,” says Jensen. “The body is meant to move, people are meant to move, and we are meant to move in many ways every day. We are not meant to be still, especially when we are blessed with a body that can move.”

Not sure how to start? Try this easy stretch series:

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