Think about stretching the same way you think about brushing your teeth. Hear me out: Dentists say to brush for two minutes. While brushing your teeth for 10 seconds isn’t exactly unhealthy, it’s not going to do a whole lot. The same applies to static stretching, aka those stretches you hold in order to melt away muscle tension. The idea is that, in order to hit that expert-approved sweet spot, you should be holding these stretches for at least 30 seconds.
While pros have differing opinions on exactly how long to hold a stretch for, Samantha Pell, founder of Samantha Pell Pilates, says the ideal length is somewhere between 35 and 45 seconds—particularly if you’re dealing with tightness-induced imbalances in your body. The American Heart Association recommends sticking with your stretch for between 10 and 30 seconds, while Corinne Croce, physical therapist and founder of Bodyevolved, says that she prefers to hold them for up to two minutes.
However you go about stretching, know you’re doing your entire body a favor. Research has shown that static stretching can increase your range of motion and boost your flexibility, which is why it’s the go-to method for athletes who participate in extra-bendy sports like dance and gymnastics. “Static stretching is incredible for recovery,” says Anthony Crouchelli, a master trainer at Grit Bxng. “It relieves tension along with aches and pains.”
And, while stretching can’t technically make you taller, static stretching can work to lengthen your muscles… and ultimately help pump up your posture,. “It can help restore resting length of tissue and decrease muscle tension, which can allow us to elongate better through our bodies,” says Croce. She also adds that this paired with increased flexibility can add a few extra inches (okay, centimeters) to your stance. The bottom line? Settle into your static stretches for as long as you’re comfortable—for 30 seconds or more, ideally—and your muscles and posture will thank you for it later.
To make working these long-hold stretches into your routine even easier? Try this yoga-inspired flexibility series:
If your lower back is sore, it could be because you aren’t stretching this area enough. And anabolic stretching allows you to marry stretching and yoga so you can be “stretchy-strong.”