Does stretching before exercise help?
Often before exercising, many hear from their peers and coaches to stretch before doing so. These words are often expressed because of the widely held belief that stretching before exercise is very beneficial to prevent injury or soreness during exercise. However, this advice may actually be detrimental to one’s performance in exercise instead of beneficial. New expert testimonies, advice, and research have advised against stretching before exercise, proving its ineffectiveness in providing harm against injury and pain during exercise.
Expert advice from Harvard Medical School argues that studies comparing rates of injury or muscle soreness in people who stretch before exercise and those who do not have found little benefit to stretching. Furthermore, it explains that stretching a healthy muscle before exercise does not prevent injury or soreness and stretching a tight muscle possibly leads to injury. This is true for ankle sprains, which are due to ankle rolling, because if muscles in the ankle had less flexibility there would be less injuries.
Recent studies have also found that the muscles are not warmed up yet, so stretching will not do anything. In fact, a comprehensive review has found that static stretching led to decreases in strength and performance during exercise. Many other studies have found stretching immediately before exercise can actually hinder performance in athletics. The Mayo Clinic recommends warming up with light exercise for a few minutes before stretching to warm up the muscles.
Stretching before exercise may be detrimental to some but beneficial to others depending on the activity one chooses to participate in. If the activity requires flexibility, stretching is recommended, but for others it is better to stretch after exercise. However, different exercise routines and stretching practices may work for some more than others. Whenever someone chooses to stretch their muscles, they must do it properly and know when they have reached their limit in order to prevent serious injuries.
Ask the doctor: Stretching before exercise. Harvard Health. 2015 Jul 17.
Does stretching prevent injuries? The evidence. Newcastle Sports Medicine. 2017 Sep 19.
Roberts, C. Should you stretch before or after your workout? CNET. 2019 Oct 21.
Stretching is not a warm up! Find out why. Mayo Clinic. 2020 Jan 31.