Stretching before you hit the field (or the path) is the most important thing you can do to prevent injuries. Or, is it?
Most coaches, athletic instructors and athletes themselves would tell you the same thing: stretch before you exercise. It’s believed to reduce your risk of injuring yourself and to improve your overall physical health.
Related: What Are ‘LISS’ and ‘HIIT’ Workouts?
But is stretching really necessary? It turns out that it might not matter all that much-which is pretty surprising, given the amount that it’s promoted.
If the Army Does It…
A post on iflscience.com reports on how stretching before exercising actually does little to reduce our chances of injury.
Studies done with thousands of army recruits in the U.S showed that extending your muscles before exercising didn’t really change the rates of injury connected to physical activity. It was found that stretching makes you feel better and reduces soreness, but only in small amounts.
Related: 7 Amazing Stretches to Do On a Plane
Maybe it depends on your age, though. As I get older, stretching daily really does seem to make a difference. I’m not a million years old I get stiff just from sleeping!
Anyways, for the individuals in the study, stretching didn’t really do too much.
How about increasing flexibility? Yes it did, but not very noticeably. Stretching did, however, reduce the strength of individuals’ muscles, if only for a moment.
“Warming up” in general did make a difference in limiting sports injuries in this study.
How is this different from “stretching”? Well, “warming up” according to the study involved stretching, as well as strengthening exercise, balance exercises, sports-specific agility drills and landing techniques.
These warm-up techniques needed to be applied consistently for longer than three consecutive months, in order to see a distinct effect, the study reported.
Maybe it’s just that the army wants their recruits to do more than just stretch to prevent injuries, or maybe we really DO need a whole warm-up regime to protect ourselves. Get out the tires.
In any event, it looks like stretching won’t hurt. And even if it doesn’t do much at all, it might actually feel good.