To prevent injury, reduce soreness, and increase your strength and agility, make stretching part of your daily workout.

In just five minutes, you can warm up your muscles before you workout and cool them down after wards. A muscle that’s been warmed up is less likely to suffer injury during exercise. Cooling down your muscles after a vigorous workout lessens soreness later.

But stretching isn’t just a great way to ease in and out of intense exercise. When you devote more time to stretching every day, its benefits dramatically increase.

According to a study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, longer periods of stretching increase muscle strength, much like weight training does. It also improves flexibility and lessens the stiffness as well as the aches and pains that age or inactivity may cause. If you make stretching a significant part of your daily workout, you’ll move more gracefully, too. And that will make you look—and feel—younger and more vital.

Some home fitness systems ignore stretching altogether. Others use it only as part of warm-ups and cool-downs. If you follow a workout program that significantly incorporates a good stretch  into its routine,  you’ll reap the benefits.

Tony Horton’s P90X workout program is one such program. It includes a 57-minute stretch routine designed to make you feel fantastic. Rushed for time? In just 10 minutes a day you can complete a Yoga Flex workout as part of the 10 Minute Trainer fitness system.

Over time, either of these programs will give you a strong, agile body that’s less prone to aches, soreness, and stiffness–all the benefits of a good stretch routine.  Even if you don’t have these programs, you can easily stretch on your own.  Google is your friend, you know your body best, and know your weak areas.  Find appropriate stretches and take the time to stretch.  You’ll regret it later if you suffer injuries, and stretching can PREVENT them.