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The Importance of Stretching in Cold Weather

Everyone knows it’s vital to stretch your muscles before exercise. Stretching increases flexibility and range of motion, decreasing your risk of injury. It’s is even more essential on cold days because your muscles contract to conserve heat, making them tighter and more prone to injury.

Here are some tips on how to limber up for cold weather exercise:

Safety First

Since stretching cold muscles can cause the types of injuries we seek to avoid, begin by briskly walking or jogging for a few minutes. This will get the blood flowing to your muscles and prepare them to be stretched.

Dynamic Stretching

Dr. Alexandra Matthews with the Orthopedic Performance Institute recommends a dynamic stretching routine in cold weather. This means that you should incorporate motions into your routine, (such as leg kicks and arm circles) rather than just stretching and holding the muscle without moving. Dynamic stretching benefits you in a couple of ways — it limbers up your muscles and gets your blood moving, which in turn keeps you warmed up and ready to work out.

Here are two dynamic stretches to add to your cold weather routine:

  • Arm Circles. With your arms out straight and palms down, begin making small circles and gradually increase the movement. Keep your shoulders relaxed. When you’ve reached the maximum diameter that you can do, decrease the size of the circles until you’re back at the starting position.
  • Forward Lunges. Place your feet together, put your hands on your hips and take a step forward with one leg. Bend the knee to a 90º angle while lowering your other knee toward the ground. Keeping your upper body straight, push back to a standing position and repeat three or four times before switching to the other leg.

Don’t Stop

If you’re going to be involved in a sport that leaves you standing still for periods of time, continue doing the dynamic stretches to keep muscles warm. You can even jog in place.

The Cooldown

Stretching is also good for cooling down after you work out or participate in a sport. This is when you will do some static stretching. It decreases your heart rate and makes your muscles feel better. However, never stretch a muscle to the point that you feel pain.

There’s no reason to curtail your outdoor activities in colder weather. Just remember to keep your muscles warm and limber — and dress appropriately!

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