To Stretch or Not to Stretch?
Up until around 10 years ago, most people stretched before workouts by holding a position without moving until it was uncomfortable. It was believed that stretching would lengthen muscles and improve physical performance. Then studies started to pop up that demonstrated that pre-exercise stretching actually decreased athletic performance. This suggested that for optimal performance one should not stretch immediately before an event. However, current studies have now revealed that the detrimental effects only occur with longer duration stretches that are held for 60 seconds or more.
The implications over whether or not to stretch affects everyone from athletes to computer workers to the elderly and of course people suffering from muscular skeletal injuries such as:
Rotator cuff injuries
Low back pain
Patella Femoral Joint Syndrome
Current guidelines (ACSM) recommend that activity be preceded by aerobic exercise such as plyometrics or sport specific drills. However sports that require static flexibility such as dancing, gymnastics and hockey goaltenders should still be stretching before competition in addition to a dynamic warm-up.
Flexibility decreases as we age, but it has been demonstrated that flexibility can be improved across all age groups through stretching. It increases joint range of motion and decreases stiffness in a muscle. Stretching can therefore play a very important role in treating muscular skeletal injuries, postural stability and balance.
It is recommended that most adults should stretch in order to improve range of motion. Stretching is most effective when a muscle is warm. Light physical activity, using a moist heat pack or taking a warm bath prior to stretching are great ways to warm up a muscle before stretching.
For effectiveness, stretching should be done:
- At least 3 times a week
- Hold each stretch 10-30 seconds
- Repeat 2-4 times
If you have any questions or would like us to develop a stretching program for you, give us a call for a consultation.