Many people are still confused as to when to stretch, for how long, or even why you’re supposed to stretch. Is it better to stretch after a workout to prevent soreness or at the beginning of a workout to prevent injury? Have their been studies on this?
There have been many studies done to determine the effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness after exercise, risk of injury, and athletic performance.
Some studies have concluded:
- Stretching before or after exercising does not confer protection from muscle soreness.
- Stretching before exercising does not seem to confer a practically useful reduction in the risk of injury, but the generality of this finding needs testing.
- Insufficient research has been done with which to determine the effects of stretching on sporting performance.
A study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to recommend people stop stretching, nor was there good evidence to suggest people start using stretching.
Okay – so then what? Do we stretch? Do we not? Why is all the data so inconclusive in these studies?
In my opinion after 7 years of training and coaching over 800 people ranging from 16-82 in age, I believe that the reason these studies are not conclusive is because everyone’s bodies are different. Stretching may make a difference in one person and none in another. What a person does immediately after a work-out may also have an impact on muscle soreness, so does hydration of the body, protein intake, temperature and many other factors.
If someone does an intense workout and then goes and has a coffee and sits for 5 straight hours at their desk then i’m sure they will feel tighter than if they were to have had a bottle of water and walked for 45 minutes immediately after.
The bottom line – if stretching feels good for you, continue to do it. There is no “harm” is stretching after a workout if it is done properly. If you think it makes a difference with muscle soreness then why not – GO FOR IT.
I don’t particularly think it’s makes a difference in my own body when it comes to “DOMS” but I do however think it’s an important part of my life as I have muscular imbalances caused by my scoliosis in my back. I work on strengthening my weaknesses and lengthening my tight spots and it turn my flexibility and range of motion begins to improve.
So I suppose my own personal conclusion is that stretching (for me) is good for my spine, good for maintaining my ROM, and it feels GREAT – I am also a big advocate for yoga as well so I suppose you could say I like to stretch!
So – to each his own! I think it’s a good way to cool down so why not spend the last 5 minutes of your workout getting in a few general stretches of the muscles you used – It can’t hurt to be a little more flexible right?