You have been dipping your toes back into exercising and have been told “be sure to stretch before exercising” and “no, you don’t need to stretch before exercising.” So which is it?
For years experts said that stretching will decrease the risk of injury, prevent soreness and improve performance. Researchers, in the meantime, studied this to see if there is any truth to those assertions.
The results were mixed.
Some found that is does nothing for muscle soreness or that it will prevent overuse or acute sports injuries. Other research suggested that those who stretched, which increases flexibility, lowered how efficiently they use oxygen.
What that meant was the less flexible runners were faster than the ‘flexible’ runners.
Confusion about stretching
So some of the confusion about stretching or not comes from the difference between stretching and warming up. Research about warming up showed that warming up didn’t affect range of motion. However, if warming up happened then stretching right after it did increase range of motion.
A lot of people interpreted this as it will prevent injury. Warming up does, stretching doesn’t.
So what does stretching help?
Well, studies do support that range of motion can be increased by stretching. Stretching fifteen to thirty seconds for each muscle group per day is all that is necessary to prevent some injury.
Some people need more or longer, and the optimal duration and frequency for stretching may vary not only by person but also by muscle group.
What can you do to find out if stretching is something you need or can benefit from? You can talk to a physical therapist to be evaluated and have a program set up for you to get the best outcome for you.