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Exercise: Stretching

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154004.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 3:05 am Reply with quote

Question: What should you always do before exercising?

Forfeit: Stretch

There is no scientific evidence that stretching before exercise significantly decreases muscle soreness or the risk of injury, in fact some studies have shown that stretching can increase the chance of injury.

Warming up is fine, just donít bother include stretching. A review of 293 articles showed only 3 which found a positive effect ascribed to stretching, however these experiments also included warming-up as part of the routine. The evidence suggests that if youíre going to do any exercise you should drop the stretching and increase the warm-up.

Warm-up prevents injury, whereas stretching has no effect on injury. Therefore, if injury prevention is the primary objective (eg, recreational athletes who consider performance a secondary issue) and the range of motion necessary for an activity is not extreme, the evidence suggests that athletes should drop the stretching before exercise and increase warm-up.

Journal of Athletic Training
British Medical Journal
The Physician and Sportsmedicine

I think that these studies are unimpeachable, but after Molly's objections I'm wondering if this is a bit of a crap question. What I'm trying to say is that merely stretching is bad for you but warming-up is good for you: i.e. this is bad:

But gently warming up the muscles is good.

The problem is that warming up is really nothing more than non-vigorous stretching isn't it? So this is a kind wimpish question saying "stretch a bit but not too much".

154033.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:32 am Reply with quote

Iím possibly not in the target demographic for this question (whatever Iím about to do, I warm up for it by smoking a pipe), but the question would get blank looks from me because I didn't know there was a difference between stretching and warming up and donít really get it even now youíve explained it and, obviously, I despise people who take non-recreational exercise so IĎd be too busy sneering to listen to the answer.

On the other hand, it could be a brilliant question for Phil Jupitus!

154038.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:44 am Reply with quote

Yeah, I'm veering towards that idea myself.

The fact that I'm attempting to make is that when you see sportsmen doing stretches before games they are doing abolutely no good and in fact could be doing themselves a great harm.

154047.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 6:19 am Reply with quote

Are there any examples of professional sportsmen injuring themselves as a result of wrong warm-ups? (other than by standing on a cricket ball, naming no names).

154051.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 6:26 am Reply with quote

Happens regularly in football matches, just google "injured in the warm up"

154080.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:09 am Reply with quote

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm 100% sure I saw some research a year or two ago which said that there was no value in the warm-up either. I'll try and track it down (Mat, I would think that would make a good topic for your FT column, by the way).

And after that, I'm determined to find some research which says that one's swing in golf, tennis, cricket etc is NOT improved by following through, and in fact it makes things worse. Or, if I can't find the research I'm just going to assert it anyway.

154131.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:49 am Reply with quote

Ooh yes please, Flash, I'll nick that off you if you find it!

It's certainly true that cricketers are always getting injured in warm-up games of touch rugby and football and the like, and in pre-match exercises.

Then of course there's the "warm-down." Old time cricketers scoff that in their day you warmed down after a game with a fag and a beer. Can we debunk warming down as well as up - and if so, can sideways be far behind?

154145.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:03 am Reply with quote

I don't think you'll be able to debunk warming-up, unless by debunking you mean finding a single study which goes against all other studies done.

As far as I could see, the literature backs-up the idea of a non-vigorous warm-up. Which is why this question is pants.

154147.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:04 am Reply with quote

Egg - here's something. Of course the trouble with the internet is that you can find confirmation of any cockamamy theory you want to look for, and I have no idea what this person's credentials are, but:

The truth is that new evidence demonstrates that this practice not only does nothing to prevent injury, it may even CAUSE injury! London-based physiotherapist Mark Todman agrees that there is no conclusive evidence that stretching protects muscles and goes on to say, "In fact, you can make your joints more vulnerable by overstretching."

The first question that should have been asked of those who advocate stretching exercises as a means to make muscles more malleable is, how is stretching the muscle supposed to make them more malleable? It won't make the muscles any more malleable or increase the elasticity than stretching a rubber band would make it more malleable. The only way to do so would be to change the molecular structure. That is just what resistance training that we advocate does! Resistance training makes the muscles stronger and increases the blood flow, which makes the muscles more malleable and elastic, better able to flex the joints and increase the range of motion.

A major reason for the latter effect is stronger muscles stabilize joints that are plagued with problematic joint laxity that has been caused by over-stretching tendons and ligaments by the very stretching exercises that are supposed to prevent injury! Dr. Plagenhoef expresses this benefit well: "If the joints of an athlete, or anyone, are surrounded and supported by stronger muscles, then the chance of any trauma is reduced. If a joint in question becomes more flexible but without a corresponding increase in muscular strength, injury probability is increased."

And, further to the flippant comment about yoga being bad for you (intended at the time only as a way of teasing Molly):

I think these facts should be a warning concerning the current fads of Yoga and Pilates classes. Since neither of these types of exercise increases muscular strength, they leave their participants susceptible to the possibilities of injury. For even though these methods are usually taught by experienced professionals, there is no way that anyone can know exactly when the tendons and ligaments are being over-stretched. I'm sure that these instructors are doing their best to guess the safest limits of stretching, but it is just a guess!

They LOVE the warm-up, though.

154152.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:11 am Reply with quote

Much as I would like to believe, I don't buy the anti-yoga stuff.

Here's a scientific study done at the University of California at Davis, it clearly shows that yoga is good for your fitness. I found a number of other studies showing the same last week.

Molly Cule
154333.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 4:54 pm Reply with quote

Ah ha! So you have been looking into yoga and are now defending it in my absence! Excellent. Does this mean you will be after some lessons soon? I think I should make you all do yoga at the studios - we can warm up for the warm up. No wimping out with weedy comments like 'yoga is really bad for you' etc....

154414.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 3:36 am Reply with quote

I know that a 10 mile run is good for me, but I ain't doing that any time soon.

I think I'll politely decline.

176760.  Tue May 22, 2007 9:04 am Reply with quote

More on yoga being good for you, this time it's supposed to help treat depression. Almost makes you want to give up on all medical science.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital have found that practicing yoga may elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels, the brain's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. The findings [...] suggest that the practice of yoga be explored as a possible treatment for depression and anxiety, disorders associated with low GABA levels.


I wonder why they didn't call it "Boston University Medical School"

176806.  Tue May 22, 2007 10:35 am Reply with quote

Because they were a bunch of busms.

Haven't read the article, but do they adjust for how depressing it must be to sit there thinking "Oh God, I'm doing yoga"?

181493.  Sun Jun 10, 2007 5:11 am Reply with quote

Yet more on yoga's health benefits. This is probably the largest study done. Expect results in the next few months



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