I cannot emphasize enough how important stretching is both before and after your daily workouts, a hike, a swim, a run, or playing your favorite sport. Stretching as a part of whatever activity you are doing will minimize any chance of injury. Skipping this step could lead to permanent damage.
When stretching, you should feel a slight tension in your muscles and joints, being careful not to over extend to the point of feeling pain. Each of the following stretches should be held for 20 seconds or until you feel the tension gradually diminish. A good stretch should be constant tension without bouncing. Do not hold your breath while stretching. Deep breathing is part of a good warm-up or cool-down. Warm-up stretches should be at least 10 minutes and will begin to increase your heart rate. The cool-down stretch should also be at least 10 minutes and will give your heart and breathing a chance to slowly recover.
Stand with arms over your head, extended upward with palms facing outward and fingers interlaced. Slowly push your arms up and out. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat
Stand with your arms over your head and place elbow of your left arm in your right hand and slowly bend to your right side, hold for 20 seconds. Alternate with your other side.
Sit with one leg extended straight and the other bent and tucked along the extended leg. Slowly lean forward as far as you can before it starts feeling uncomfortable, and hold. Repeat with the opposite leg. You should be able to bend a little farther each time.
Sit with legs bent and the soles of your feet touching. Slowly lean forward and hold.
Standing, lean against a solid support. Place one leg in front and almost touching the wall, the other straight in back with toes pointed forward. Keeping the heel of your straight leg flat, lean into the wall until you feel a comfortable stretch, and hold. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Place one leg in front of the other and kneel forward until your knee is directly over your ankle. Repeat with the opposite leg.