Stretching is a natural activity often performed without thinking by most people and many animals. We’ve all heard of the purported benefits of a stretching regime before and after exercise. Like all health advice these days, there is now contradictory data as to whether stretching is beneficial in preventing injuries. While some studies suggest that there is no benefit to stretching, other studies have suggested that stretching actually increases muscles’ susceptibility to injury. They claim that by stretching, our muscle fibers are lengthened and destabilized, making them less prepared for the strain placed upon them by exercise.
Is it best to stretch before and/or after exercise? Should you even bother stretching at all? Personally, I’m with evolution on this one. You would think there would be some evolutionary benefit: injured animals are far less likely to survive and breed than healthy injury-free animals. We’ve all seen the classic feline stretch. And what better example than the cheetah? The magnificent cheetah is the fastest of all land animals; it has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 110 kilometres per hour (70 mph) in three seconds – faster than most supercars.
(this must be the 1st video not to show a kill)
I have noted that my whippet (a medium sized greyhound) instinctively stretches before going out for a run. Does she stretch after a run? No, never. So based on that observation alone, I always stretch before a ride, but never afterwards. And I’ll continue to do so, until someone who’s been on safari in the serengeti informs me that they’ve seen a cheetah stop & stretch immediately after a hunt. But I think its more important to eat while you can… at least I’m not the only one!
Does Stretching Really Prevent Injury?
That sage advice has echoed in the halls of workout rooms and high school gyms for decades. It sounds like a good idea and is widely practiced, but in fact there is little or no benefit to it. Research has shown that people who stretch before exercising are no less likely to injure themselves than those who do not.
In one such study, physiotherapist Rod Pope of Charles Sturt University in Australia examined more than 2,600 army recruits during training. His conclusion: €œStretching was assumed to work in preventing injury, but there was no evidence to suggest it did.€ Based on his study and those of others, Pope said he recommends that the army stop mandatory stretching before exercise, saying it€™s a waste of time.
Stretching can feel good and help prepare the muscles for exercise, and it might have benefits for people with certain conditions. But evidence does not suggest it does anything to reduce injuries during exercise.