This Is How Long You Really Need To Hold Your Stretches

Stretching can help reduce muscle soreness, stiffness, fatigue and can even lower your blood pressure. However, stretching needs to take place at a certain point in your workout, and need to be held for a certain amount of time, for these benefits to be seen. The best time to stretch is after your workout when your muscles are warm, and you need to cool down. Start with walking, to kick-off the cool-down process, and then end the workout with some stretches. This will help you relax, and bring your heart rate down (via LIVESTRONG and Healthline). 

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends holding your stretches for 60 seconds each. You can start with smaller sets, if you can't yet hold a stretch for that long. For example, stretch in sets of six, at ten seconds each, or two sets of thirty seconds each, to achieve holding the stretch for a full minute. Hold those stretches longer and longer after each workout session until you can hold them for a minute in one go. 

You should never feel sore from stretching. If you do, you've overstretched. Instead, you should feel a pulling sensation in the stretch, which should feel different than pain. Move steadily and slowly, and keep breathing.

Tips for your stretching session

Now that you know how long to hold your stretch, here are some tips to get the most out of your after-workout stretching sessions. Most importantly, stop if you feel any pain. Take it back a notch. The more you stretch, the more flexible you'll get. 

Take deep breaths during your stretches and keep your knees slightly bent to avoid injury. Your muscles need oxygen just as they do when you're exercising. Keep your movements slow and steady when stretching — don't bounce. Take a deep breath and slowly and steadily lean into the stretch while exhaling. Stop when you feel the pulling sensation, and hold there. 

Allow your whole body to relax while stretching. You may find that you can go further into the stretch after a few seconds. Go for it, but remember to bring it back if you feel any pain. Take another deep breath and exhale, while slowly going a little bit further into the stretch.