Anyone recalling their time in physical education classes or tryouts for team sports in grade school will remember the emphasis every coach placed on stretching before any significant physical exertion took place. Perhaps a light jog to warm up stagnant muscles was instructed, but paramount among pregame rituals was the organized, often timed routine of toe touching, arm reaching, and back bending.

With the explosion of yoga over the past two decades, stretching is no longer simply a preparatory tenant of thorough exercise. Nowadays, it is the substance of many workouts.

A recent Nylon article covered the topic, featuring leading voices within the burgeoning pocket of the fitness industry, helping explain why the tedious task is so important and continuing to grow.

Story author Irina Grechko interviewed Stretch’d co-founder Vanessa Chu and Alain Saint-Dic, a trainer at stretch and recovery studio Stretch Relief, writing:

For those who work out a lot, Chu says, “stretching is the best way to supplement your fitness routine.” The movement can help circulation around the joints; flush out any soreness acquired from intense physical activity, helping one recover faster in between workouts; as well improve performance, whether it be “a deeper squat” or a “longer running stride.” “Stretching offers a healthy release and a lengthening that is known to increase power,” says Andersen. “Stretching after strength training increases flexibility and range of motion.”

 As Saint-Dic simply puts it, “Flexibility is strength. If you work out frequently, you should be stretching as frequently, if not twice as much. Imagine being able to recover faster from your workouts, get more out of each and every workout, and being relatively pain-free every time you push your limits even further.” Not to mention that stretching can help prevent injury. “If you don’t stretch, provided you aren’t blessed with genes for great flexibility, your muscles and tendons will involuntarily tighten and shorten, increasing your risk for injury,” he explains.

What once felt like a formality to yesterday’s youth may yet become the career pursuits of adolescents. Indeed “yoga instructor” is not unlikely to appear alongside current fifth grade entries of “astronaut,” “teacher,” and “firefighter” in response to the traditional question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

To read Grechko’s full article, click here.