BY TERENCE O’ROURKE
This week, my topic is stretching and exercise. Several years ago, there was a flurry of information in the media, particularly the New York Times, about the drawbacks of static stretching, which is stretching by holding a pose for 15 seconds or more.
I thought that information would be widely disseminated by now, but I still see lots of students and adults stretching at the gym before they start working out as well as sports teams stretching before games.
What prompted this flow of information was the release of several studies that showed stretching made muscles around 20 percent weaker for some time after stretching.
The studies also showed that stretching before exercise made one better at stretching, but it didn’t improve any other measures of performance. In addition, stretching before exercise did not reduce the likelihood of any type of injury and increased the chances of some injuries.
As a longtime runner who routinely spent at least 20 minutes stretching before and after my runs and who seemed to always be injured, the news that stretching before running was essentially a waste of time was music to my ears.
For a while, I stopped stretching completely, and my running seemed to improve, but I didn’t like the feeling of tightness in my legs.
Through my research on YouTube, I have found a really good warm up and cool down routine, and I have had very few injuries and much less aches and pains since.
I am very inflexible, so my experience doesn’t correlate with everyone else, but I hope you will be inspired to rethink your exercise regimen, especially if you are injured often.
What most exercise physiologists recommend now is a warm up that is “active.” That at its minimum is doing whatever activity you were planning to do at an easy and comfortable level initially.
That may be walking for a few minutes before you start jogging, jogging before you start running, doing very light weights for the first set of any exercise, etc.
There are many different warm up routines available on YouTube. My most recent search turned up a number of excellent sports specific routines by putting “dynamic warm up” into the YouTube search engine.
Most of them are meant to be time saving as well.
Stretching after exercise may have some use, especially when the muscles are still loose and warm from your workout. That is the best time to stretch if you want to do it.
Stretching just to stretch and activities like yoga have their own benefits, and it is not my intent to dissuade you from those activities.
I would like you to always be rethinking what you are doing when it comes to exercise and to be open to changes that may make fitness easier and more enjoyable for you to achieve and maintain.
Now is the time to make the most of the benefits of youth and to develop good habits that will last a lifetime.