How Long Should You Really Hold A Stretch After Each Workout?

For many, stretching after a workout is seen as nonessential. After all, you've already done the workout, what's the harm in skipping the stretch afterward? 

It turns out you could be missing out on some important advantages. Even stretching for only a few minutes a day, especially after working out, can provide a myriad of health benefits. Focusing on your flexibility can improve physical performance, increase blood flow, help your joints move more effectively, and help enable your muscles to work more effectively, according to Mayo Clinic. Stretching has even been shown to help relieve pain in your back and relieve other sore muscles. An exercise program that includes strength training and stretching can help strengthen your back and core muscles, preventing back pain in the future, explains Harvard Health Publishing.

In addition to stretching after exercise, the morning is another great time to implement a stretching routine. A morning stretching session can help you stretch out stiff joints and wake up for the day, according to Byrdie

However, despite the relative simplicity of stretching, there are ways to do it improperly, especially when you don't stretch for long enough.

Not stretching long enough is among common mistakes

Stretching may seem simple, but when you get down to it, there are still mistakes that beginners make. While these mistakes may not cause physical harm, fixing them can drastically improve your flexibility and overall health.

For example, you shouldn't perform static stretches (stretches that you hold in one position) before a workout. Research has shown that this can actually weaken performance, explains WebMD. Instead, try dynamic stretching, stretching that warms up your muscles through movements, such as leg swings, lunges, or high steps.

Another common mistake is holding your breath as you stretch. In certain positions, it can be difficult to breathe and you may not even realize you're holding your breath. However, this makes things much more difficult. Not breathing while stretching doesn't allow oxygenated blood to move through muscles, so you aren't able to stretch as far, according to Real Simple.

Finally, one of the most common stretching mistakes is not holding each stretch for long enough.

How to increase the length of time of stretching

Many people don't stretch at all after a workout. Those who do usually don't stretch for long enough. 

One simple number to keep in mind is 60 seconds. It's estimated that holding a stretch for one minute is the ideal amount of time to get maximum benefit, says Harvard Health Publishing. You can even break it down into chunks. For example, you can hold a certain stretch for 20 seconds three times.

If you want an easy-to-remember rule of thumb, stretch for one minute for two minutes of exercise, explains Byrdie. For example, if you run for 10 minutes, you should stretch for five minutes.

Of course, don't let this dissuade you from stretching. It may not be possible for some people to stretch for 30 minutes every day, but just five minutes of doing various stretches after a workout can improve your health, according to WebMD.