Is there a benefit to stretching?

This is an example of static stretching.

This is an example of static stretching.

The other day on the radio I heard about a new study, which recently came out saying you shouldn’t stretch before exercise.

I guess I had never given this much thought. I don’t normally stretch before I exercise. But whether I am spinning, practicing yoga or in a body conditioning class we start slow and warm up and then build the intensity.

Experts differ on whether you should stretch before or after or even at all.

This WebMD article quotes a few studies along with the American College of Sports Medicine, which says: Regular flexibility exercises are “crucial to maintaining joint range of movement.” … Some studies have shown that regular flexibility exercises help maintain your range of movement as you age. … Studies also show that regularly stretching the muscles that are constantly shortened through your work posture or daily routine can ease and prevent chronic pain.

Also in the same WebMD article,  there is not substantial evidence that stretching before exercise lowers risk of injury, decreases muscle soreness after exercise, or improves your performance.

A dynamic stretch can get your body moving before a workout. A good example of a dynamic stretch is standing Cat-Cow pose.

I believe this New York Times article was the one being referred to on the radio (but I am not 100% certain of that) says The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports augment a growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

The Times article also says: One of the studies’ authors, Goran Markovic, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Zagreb, said  a better choice to static stretching is to warm-up dynamically, by moving the muscles that will be called upon in your workout. Jumping jacks and toy-soldier-like high leg kicks, for instance, prepare muscles for additional exercise better than stretching. As an unscientific side benefit, they can also be fun.

From what I read static stretching can lower your performance. But I am pretty sure most of my readers aren’t body building or high performing athletes. It’s all about moderation, right? And I think if stretching (whether static or dynamic) feels better before you start your exercise routine you should do it. Just be careful (as we should always be when exercising).

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2 Comments

  1. When I was working with athletes and non-athletes, we always did dynamic stretching before the workout and static stretching after. I have always recommended static stretching at the end of the workout. And in fact that is what I do. I stretch after every workout, it’s a great way to cool down and recover after a workout. Also, part of me is trying to maintain the flexibility I do have, although I will never be as flexible as I was when I was doing gymnastics…lol. In fact flexibility is one of the components of fitness that everyone should work on 🙂

    • Brenda, I knew you would know something about this. I think I forgot to mention that I do stretch after a workout.
      And flexibility is definitely important, especially as we age.
      I practice yoga regularly, which helps with flexibility and strength.

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