Saturday, 19 February 2011

Follow your instinct in knowing what is good for you: stretching in exercises

Actually what this article actually says is that it is best to rely on
your instinct. If you find and feel that it is good for you, than do

If you had run without stretching, continue without stretching because
stretching will increase injury rate.
Similarly for those who had been stretching. Not stretching will also
increase injury rate.

Skip the Stretch Before Running — It Doesn't Prevent Injuries
By Alice Park Friday, February 18, 2011 | 21 comments
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Diet & Fitness, Exercise, injury, marathoners, Running, static
stretches, stretching, stretching before running


Most runners, whether they're training for a marathon or simply out to
get some exercise, will stretch before they take off. It's a ritual
that verges on the sacred, strongly connected to the intuitive sense
that priming the muscles is a good way to avoid injuring them during
the run to come.

But researchers at George Washington University and the USA Track and
Field Association (USATF) report that stretching before a run does not
appear to reduce injury at all. In fact, among the more than 2,700
runners in the study, ranging from recreational runners to competitive
marathoners, all of whom ran at least 10 miles a week, the scientists
found similar injury rates — of about 16% — over a three-month period
among those who stretched before running and those who did not.

The idea behind stretching is to lengthen the muscle fibers to
increase their function and hopefully enhance performance, helping
runners maintain a faster pace or run for a longer period of time. A
study of British recruits in the military found that a regular
stretching routine before training reduced injury rates from 6% to 1%.
But other recent studies among gymnasts, football players and
wrestlers have questioned the practice, suggesting that stretching
does not impact performance at all.

That's why Dr. Daniel Pereles, a runner himself, decided to look
specifically at the role that stretching might play in running
injuries. Most studies on the subject, including the British trial in
the military, involved stretching routines that included much more
than stretching running muscles; they also incorporated calisthenics
and other exercises. Pereles wanted to know specifically whether
stretching leg muscles — the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles —
would have an impact on injuries.

Through the USATF, Pereles was able to recruit enough runners of
various levels to get an answer to his question. About half of the
2,729 volunteers were told to stretch their quads, hams and calf
muscles for three to five minutes before running for however long they
usually exercised. The remaining half were told to run without

While he found that stretching did not have any effect on injury rates
among the two groups, he did find several factors that did seem to
influence whether the runners hurt themselves. Heavier runners, as
well as those who had recently suffered an injury, were more likely to
harm themselves. Interestingly, Pereles also found that those who
switched from a stretch to non-stretch or non-stretch to stretch
routine for the study were more likely to get injured. Stretchers who
were told not to stretch during the three-month study increased their
risk of injury by 40%, while those who switched from not stretching to
stretching increased their risk by 22%.

Pereles is still at a loss to explain that trend, although he suspects
the change in routine accounts for most of the result. "It's
completely confounding, but by switching routines, it somehow messed
them up," he says.

That's why his advice, as both researcher and runner, is to stick with
what works for you. "If it feels good for you to stretch before you
run, then continue if you have the time," he says. "But if it doesn't
feel good, and you like to run and then stretch, or not stretch at
all, then that's fine too. I can't tell anyone there is conclusive
evidence that stretching makes a difference in injuries or

He notes that professional athletes, who often spend as much time
stretching and warming up as they do training, are combining
stretching with other activities for a more dynamic warm-up. Most
recreational runners, however, don't have the luxury of spending that
much time exercising. Pereles himself admits to changing his running
routine as well, and stretching only a little before a run. Part of
the reason, he says, is because he doesn't have the time, and but part
of the reason has to do with the science, which so far suggests that
it doesn't seem to make a difference in injury rates.

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