You Should Always Stretch After You Exercise. Here's Why

Whether you exercise three times a week or three times a day, it's important in that post-sweat session that you make time for a proper cool down. "Taking the time to cool down after your training session can help to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness and ease post-workout muscle tension," ​SWEAT Trainer ​Kelsey Wells explained to Cosmopolitan. She also said this will "help you to gradually lower your heart rate back to normal levels and help your body to cool down after your session." And an integral part of any cool down is stretching. Here's why.

First, most forms of exercise put stress on our bodies, and stretching helps release it. As Corrine Croce, physical therapist and founder of Body Evolved in New York, explained to Well+Good, "Exercise is a stress to our body and... if we do not take a few minutes post-workout to restore homeostasis and return to a parasympathetic state we are increasing the stress to our bodies which not only can have counterproductive results for our workout goals but is not healthy overall." 

Stretching assists with recovery, mobility, and more

And secondly, stretching can improve your mobility and assist with recovery. "One of the big things about stretching after a workout is the idea that you are improving mobility after you've already worked the muscle," Jennifer Morgan, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a sports physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told SELF. "Stretching can increase blood flow, boost oxygen levels, and help deliver nutrients to your body and your muscles... as well as help remove metabolic waste to help with the recovery process." That means there's also less of a chance you'll experience muscle stiffness or fatigue — there's nothing worse than struggling up the stairs the day after leg day.

However, it's important to note that there is such a thing as over-stretching. "Connective tissue [like your tendons and ligaments] is damaged when stretched beyond its limits," Ian Shrier, MD, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University in Canada, explained to Experience Life. Basically, stretching should never hurt, so if it does, you should dial it down a notch to make sure you're not harming yourself.