Do You Really Have to Stretch Before & After You Exercise?

Do You Really Have to Stretch Before & After You Exercise?

Stretching is a fundamental part in performing well–at least that’s what our coaches have been telling us since day one. But . . . what does the science say?

“Don’t forget to stretch before and after! You don’t want to cramp up!” Our coaches would say to us before a game or practice. We’ve been reminded of the importance of stretching our entire lives, we hold it for truth. New studies are suggesting that the answer is not as easy as a simple yes or no; as per usual, life (and biology) are proving to be a bit more complex than our previous preconceptions.

The randomized trials

The studies were conducted on 2,631 army recruits over a three months of routine stretching showed that stretching had no appreciable reduction in the risk of injury. The review of such trials concluded: “muscle stretching, whether conducted before, after, or before and after exercise, does not produce clinically important reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness in healthy adults.

What about flexibility & muscle performance?

While giving no significant reduction in injury, stretching does seem to affect flexibility and muscle performance, however. Muscle flexibility tolerance goes up for those who stretch more often—as is expected—and for sports that require flexibility (e.g. gymnastics, hurdling, etc.).

On muscle performance, the opposite seems to be true. According to the trials, stretching seemed to have a short, temporary reduction in the strength of stretched muscles. Suggesting that sports that require the large generation of muscle forces may suffer if stretched immediately prior to the activity.

To stretch or not to stretch?

For recreationally active people, stretching may have a very small benefit: if you like to stretch, stretch. If you don’t like stretching, don’t.

If you’re a high-level athlete stretching might increase performance in sports that require lots of flexibility but could temporarily decrease muscle strength. It makes more sense to stretch if you’re a hurdler than if you’re a weightlifter.

For help acquiring the right health insurance to guarantee your injuries won’t come back and haunt you, contact the independent insurance professionals at Risk Management LLC in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

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