Stretching Probably Useless

Stretching probably useless. Rob Herbert of the University of Sydney conducted a meta-analysis of the scientific studies of stretching published in the past 50 years. As quoted in Nature, Herbert found five published studies with samples large enough and controls good enough to be considered reliable. All measured the effects of stretching on muscle soreness; two also looked at injury risk. None of the studies showed any significant benefit.
“We can say with a high degree of confidence that stretching does not prevent muscle soreness,” says Herbert. “We can’t rule out that it reduces injury risk, but the weight of evidence is against it.”
[Ref.: Herbert, R. D. & Gabriel, M. Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. British Medical Journal, 325, 468 – 470, (2002).]

However… Gary Milliken represents a lot of non-22-year-old runners when he writes, “I read with great interest the report on stretching. I can’t argue with the conclusion, but it’s worth emphasizing two important points.
“First, the study was done with Army recruits which I assume means guys approximately 17 to 22 years old or so. I know I could do many things at that age that would put me in traction today, so the results may not apply to someone my age (52).
“Second, the study made no claims about the benefit of stretching after exercise for the prevention of injuries. But from my experience stretching after exercise is the most beneficial time to stretch, especially if for preventing injuries.
“By stretching after exercise I know I can get a deeper more comfortable stretch that seems to help prepare me for the next day’s workout. Since I’m only a sample of one, this isn’t science, but I can tell you my experience.
“After what I think was a calf tear in June I got serious about a stretching routine. Since then, every other day – on my easy days, I run 4 easy miles at a pace about 1 1/2 minutes slower than my 10K race pace, and then I do several stretches emphasizing the backs of my legs – Achilles, calf and hamstrings. I’m more flexible now, and even though I have increased my mileage, I have not had an injury since I’ve started stretching regularly. I am reasonably sure the stretching after running has helped me prepare for the next day. It would be interesting to hear what other runners have learned about stretching.”

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