Doing some good stretching or yoga exercises once a week improves your balance and your mobility. It also makes you stronger and more flexible. Power stretching three times per week is enough – and you don’t even need to join a yoga class to do it.
How do you properly stretch?
If you run or train with weights, your muscles become stronger – but also shorter. This has a negative effect on your flexibility. That is why stretching is recommended: it stretches your muscles lengthwise. A good stretching session ensures you are more flexible, stronger and more mobile.
You can stretch dynamically or statically. Dynamic stretching is done while you are moving: when running, for example, do some heel-to-butt stretches or a sideways lunge. That works best before exercising.
After your exercise, or as a stand-alone exercise, static stretching is best: stand still and stretch, keeping one muscle stretched for a longish period – minimum 30 seconds. This not only trains that muscle, but also helps to bring your heart rate down and to relax your whole body.
Or is yoga the way to go?
The growing popularity of yoga might make you think that doing yoga exercises is the best option. But that is a personal choice: American scientists compared people who practiced hatha yoga, the best-known variant, three times per week, with people who did regular stretching exercises of the same intensity. They saw no significant difference between the two groups. The positive effects on their health were just as good in both groups of participants.