Monday, September 20, 2010

To stretch or not to stretch? Just keep it consistent

THE BUZZ: If you reach for your toes every time you don your running shoes, don’t stop. And if you don’t? Don’t start. A recent study—in attempt to end the unanswered debate over whether pre-run stretching actually lowers injury risk—found no significant difference in injuries between runners who consistently stretched before each run versus those who did not stretch.

THE DETAILS: The USA Track and Field study followed more than 2,700 volunteer runners for three months. Half signed up to stretch for three to five minutes before each run, and half agreed not to. The participants kept every other aspect of their running routine the same as usual.

NOTEWORTHY: Both groups reported nearly equal injury rates. But runners used to stretching before their workouts who stopped during the study upped their chance of injury—as did non-stretchers who took up stretching, compared to those who chose to follow their usual pre-run routine.

THE TAKEAWAY: This up-to-date running study (published on the USATF Website in August 2010) from the sport’s national governing body found no reason to stretch or not to stretch before a jog or run. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s latest exercise guidelines for “healthy adults,” there’s no stretching recommendation—unless you’re over age 65. But, even that recommendation doesn’t specify whether it’s better to stretch pre- or post-workout.

MY TAKE: Start (or finish) your workout with a warm up that makes your muscles feel good. I’m hooked on Pilates- and yoga-inspired stretches post-run and post-abs to let my hip flexors, quads, and back recover. 

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