Friday, May 18, 2012

Myth: Stretching Before Exercise Will Prevent Injury

This particular myth is contentious. There are pro and anti-stretching arguments, with staunch support on both sides, but the confusion about stretching comes down to the fact that many confuse "stretching" with "warming up." It's very important to warm up before strenuous exercise, and warming up can prevent injury, but stretching specifically has been shown to at best have little benefit (as this 2007 review of over 10 separate studies (PDF link) published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded) and at worst inhibit performance (as this 2011 study conducted by the University of Northampton and published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (PubMed) concluded.)

Even the Centers for Disease Control have said stretching doesn't prevent injuries. I've made the mistake of confusing stretching with warming up before, so it's important that you don't. Make sure you warm up properly before you begin a workout, possibly even include some stretches to limber up and boost your flexibility, but leave the long stretch-sessions to those long hours at your desk instead.