Dealing with lots of athletes in my practice as well as seeing many people who have made ‘getting fit’ a new year’s resolution for 2013, a common question I get is; “….should I stretch before exercise or not?”.
In the last 5-10 years especially, I have come across articles in academic literature that have suggested that stretching before exercise could actually detrimental to athletic performance at best, but at worse, could even be harmful! Some select studies have suggested that stretching immediately before exercise may actually rob the body of it’s full strength potential. Now, in some circumstances I can see how this may be an undesirable outcome for select athletes. But I have to admit, after reviewing these studies, I’m not sure if most people would fall under the criteria for this risk.
The idea of stretching is to improve circulation to the muscles, increase flexibility to the joints, prepare the body for the exercise to come and to also hopefully prevent or limit the soreness many people feel after the exercise. An extension to preventing post exercise soreness is to also prevent possible injury as well. This is a common goal that I see in practice. Patients not only want ways to prevent injuries to avoid pain and suffering but also to keep up their exercise routine and remain fit.
Now, the current research is very poor in proving that stretching before exercise can prevent soreness after and it is easy to understand why. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can have many factors involved. Including; fitness levels, age, flexibility, environmental, athletic training etc. But for the most part, my patient’s exercise routine usually involves regular visits to the gym or sports. They aren’t training for a tournament or a world class event. Rather, their goals are to stay in shape, stay active, and to control or maintain weights. For these patients I suggest they follow these recommendations;
- Do what’s right for you. That is to say, if you’re used to stretching before exercise and it feels good, then there’s no reason to stop.
- Improve your fitness level. Meaning studies have suggested many athletic injuries are a result of poor conditioning more so than poor flexibility alone.
- Establish a routine and stick with it! First and foremost, exercise should be enjoyable. Let’s face it, if your exercise is a burden and not enjoyable, the likelihood you will maintain it for the long term is very low. So my suggestion to patients is try different things! Find a routine, sport, activity, etc. that gets your heart pumping and that’s fun. That way, you can continue for the long term!
If you’re in the Commercial Drive area of East Vancouver, stop by my office or visit my website here; COMMERCIAL DRIVE - EAST VANCOUVER CHIROPRACTOR; DR. DOMINIC CHAN!!!