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Do You Need To Stretch Before And After Exercise?

Conor O'Leary
By Conor O'Leary

Nearly everyone who has played sport has been told of the need to stretch before exercise. Whether it's kids standing awkwardly 'stretching' at an under-eights' game, or an older professional trying to get the most out of his career - sportspeople have been stressing the need to stretch.

Do You Need To Stretch?

But do you need to stretch? How important is it before exercise? Does stretching reduce the risk of injury and enhance performance, or is it just a myth?

Well science has answered, and they say no. And yes. Ultimately, it's not entirely clear.

Two randomised studies attempted to investigate the effects of stretching before exercise on the rate of injury and soreness. One had 2,631 army recruits, while the other on 2,377 recreationally active people. Both strongly hinted that stretching before exercise doesn't appreciably reduce injury risk. There is a small suggestion that stretching afterwards does reduce soreness - but the effect is small.

But that does not mean that stretching isn't important.

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What stretching does do is increase flexibility and increases the ability of people to tolerate stretching more. This obviously has its benefits in sport whether it's reaching for a ball, or performing ballet.

Studies show that stretching produces small and temporary reaction in muscles hinting that doing so prior to exercise might not have an affect, but regular stretching will help with flexibility.

These studies do come with caveats though. The level of information and knowledge surrounding this physiology of the body is minimal, and focuses mostly on static stretching. There haven't been enough studies into the effects of long term stretching, or methods other than static stretching.

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So while stretching before exercise doesn't reduce the risk of injury, but warming up definitely does.

For the full report, be sure to read the conclusions explained in simple English on iflscience.com

[IFL Science]

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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