When you’re running low on time, stretching before and after your workout takes a backseat — who would want to cut a cardio or strength training session short when stretching can be easily thrown to the wayside, right? While it’s easy to dismiss stretching as an accessory to an awesome workout, it’s vital to remember how important it is.
Here are five bad things that can happen to your body if you choose to skip stretching.
1. Increased muscle tightness
Stretching after you’re finished exercising is an excellent way to increase your flexibility and range of motion, but the opposite is also true if you decide not to stretch after your hour at the gym. When you’ve finished your long run or HIIT workout, your body will feel tense or tight. And after a particularly difficult workout, you may experience delayed onset muscle soreness that can be felt between 24 and 72 hours after you’re workout is done.
2. Decreased athletic performance
If you work out every day or participate in sports, then you need to stretch if you want to see any improvement in performance or strength. When you stretch after training, you’re actually increasing muscle tone, Human Kinetics says. The proteins that create your muscle fibers can actually fuse and create more fibers through stretching. Don’t forget about allowing enough time for recovery, either. Stretching won’t make your sore muscles hurt any less, but it will accelerate the recovery of your muscles and joints.
3. Increased risk of injury
Jumping into a workout without any type of stretching is a recipe for injury. Static stretching before you’ve warmed up also isn’t a good idea, as it can overstretch the tendons and joints before they’re ready, so be mindful of how you prepare. The key is to practice dynamic stretching before your exercise routine begins, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Dynamic stretching is stretching with movement — instead of holding those lunges and hamstring stretches, practice keeping your muscles moving while still getting a good stretch.
4. Muscle degeneration
Even if you exercise daily, sitting at your desk for 8 hours at a time is taking a toll on your body. The good news is that you can fix this problem and avoid muscle degeneration with easy stretches. Stand up from your desk and stretch out your glutes and hip flexors from time to time so that future pain and injury can be prevented. Do a few rotational stretches throughout your day to keep your neck, shoulders and chest from getting tight.
5. Poor circulation
If you’re not performing dynamic stretches throughout your day, then your circulation may be suffering. Dynamic stretches that require you to move through the stretch without holding it for more than a few seconds at a time are great for increasing your blood flow at a low intensity, AZCentral.com explains. Circulatory problems can result in tingling and numbness of the arms and legs as well as pain and muscle cramps that can negatively affect athletic performance, not to mention discomfort during your everyday activities. If you’re diabetic or suffer from a heart condition, it’s even more important to keep your blood moving.