Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: To Stretch or Not To Stretch

>> Thursday, April 09, 2015

In recent years, there's been a number of studies that show/prove that stretching doesn't do much to help muscles or injury prevention. If I were I better blogger, I'd link to some of those studies, but since I'm not... well, here's nothing. But you've likely heard those things over recent years.

Stretching post-run with the cats back in 2010 (after a whole-body-hair-removal). recently highlighted another study that went a little more in depth. And being I'm a stretcher who SWEARS by stretching sore muscles/areas to keep from getting injured, I like what this study found.

The authors of the study were worried about the incorrect perception of most runners:

When a group of nearly 100 experienced recreational runners were recently asked to name the most common cause for running-related injuries, the overwhelming majority of them cited “failure to stretch regularly” as the most common cause of running injuries. The authors of this study were concerned because the runners seemed to be unaware of the overwhelming body of research showing that stretching does not alter injury rates. To make matters worse, the belief that stretching protects you from injury is becoming even more prevalent.

I know research has been disproving this lately, but I was happy to hear other runners feel the same way too. The study went on to note that while researchers are quick to point out that conventional static stretching has essentially been proven "useless," Daniel Pereles and colleagues (the authors of this study) recently proved that runners intuitively know whether or not they should stretch:

These authors randomly assigned 2,729 recreational runners to either a stretching or a non-stretching pre-run routine. Not surprisingly, there was no significant difference in injury rates between the runners who stretched versus the runners who didn’t stretch (which is typical of all studies on stretching). However, if a runner who routinely stretched was assigned to the non-stretch protocol, he/she was nearly twice as likely to sustain a running injury. Because of the number of participants, this single study proves that if you feel that stretching reduces your risk of injury, you should continue to stretch in spite of what experts tell you.

[BOLD parts above added by me for effect.]

I like this. A lot. First of all, I *KNOW* stretching helps me, but every study (before this) was saying "nope, stop stretching, it's not doing anything." Secondly, the study is essentially saying "no one knows your body like you, so if it works for you, DO IT."

OK, but what's the authors reasoning for why this study is different from the rest? Here's what Pereles thinks:

The somewhat surprising outcome associated with Daniel Pereles’s stretching study may have something to do with an inherent flaw in the way studies evaluating stretching and injury prevention are designed. Because of time constraints and compliance issues, almost every study on stretching has evaluated outcomes over a short period of time (usually less than 12 weeks). While research has shown that flexible people are less prone to exercise-induced muscle damage, other studies suggest that stretching for less than 3 months does not convert a stiff muscle into a flexible muscle. In fact, some great research proves that when stretched for just a few weeks, muscles respond by temporarily lengthening with no change in the muscles architecture.

So if your body likes it, keep doing it. For references and more info on how to USE the findings of this study in your training, click here for the full article on

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Jamie Morton 10:28 AM, April 10, 2015  

Thanks for sharing this! I hadn't seen this study yet, and I love it. I hate stretching, but I do find that when I do yoga regularly, I feel looser and better. Stretching doesn't work, though; only yoga.

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