Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stretching Before Exercise

You would think it would be easy to answer the question "Should athletes stretch before exercise?" A review of the literature is less than precise on this subject but here are some key points:

* Stretching performed before exercise can increase flexibility for up to 90 minutes but there is little evidence that such routines improve performance, reduce muscle soreness or prevent injuries.

* Stretching on a regular basis (3-5 days/week separate from the sport event) improves flexibility, some types of performance and may reduce injury risk.

* Passive stretching for 15-30 seconds per body area is as effective for increasing flexibility as stretching for longer periods.

* Increased flexibility is important for sports like ballet, gymnastics and swimming.

* Risk of injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments is reduced in athletes who are more aerobically fit.

* Warm-up exercises, combined with aerobic fitness give the athlete the best performance outcomes. To stretch or not is a personal decision.

The take home message is this: Everyone should do aerobic exercise a minimum of 1/2-1 hour a day and include stretching into that fitness regimen. It is up to you if you wish to stretch before a specific sport event. The evidence is not clear that it will improve your performance or reduce injury.

So get down on that floor and do some stretches now. Remember, no bouncing.


Rich said...

I like to stretch before I start my day but I don't always remember to. Yoga is so good to keep you limber

Toni Brayer MD said...

Good point. This stretching analysis only addressed sport performance. The benefits of Yoga are profound and far reaching. Thanks

Vijay Goel, M.D. said...

You may want to recommend stretching after a bit of warm-up.

Stretching does some great things, but a cold muscle is like a cold rubber-band -- much less elastic and more likely to tear if you pull on it too deeply.

Gabriel said...

Wow, there is a great deal of useful information in this post!
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