Everybody has heard time and time again how important it is to stretch, yet this has still got to be one of the most overlooked aspects of our wellbeing.
Stretching after exercise reduces muscle fatigue by helping release lactic acid that has built during the workout. Stretching post exercise will also improve flexibility and range of movement, drastically reduce chance of injury and promote muscle growth by improving recovery time.
Saying this, the BIG thing that almost everybody needs to get through their head is that stretching is not only for after exercise. Regular stretching can enhance energy levels via improved blood circulation, improve muscle co-ordination and can be extremely relaxing / stress relieving (hence why yoga is becoming so popular).
One small point I would like to cover quickly is PRE-workout stretching, I see it at every event I compete in, people holding these deep stretches right before competing... This is not recommended as it actually reduces muscular strength and power for a short time afterwards. Your muscles need that tension to perform at their full potential, which does get taken away with long static stretches. My recommendation –, dynamic stretches leading up to competing and static stretches afterwards, if either of these terms confuse you, a quick Google will help you out.
Too many of us under-estimate the importance of stretching and only take advantage post-workout (some not even then), so please take this article seriously and touch your toes every now and then.