Our long held belief in the fitness industry was that stretching pre-exercise reduces risk of injury and improves exercise performance. BUT, several recently published studies, one of which was published in The Journal of Strength And Conditioning Research, is refuting this common practice. This study demonstrated that stretching prior to intense sport activities such as soccer, field hockey, or other stop and go sports, may actually INCREASE risk of injury and decrease the neuromuscular activity of the muscles, thus decreasing sports performance. Other studies performed with runners showed that injury rates for the non-stretching athletes were the same as for those who did stretch pre-run. SO-what role does stretching play in our fitness regimen??
First, stretching is absolutely necessary and should be done daily either POST exercise, or as a general daily routine. If you are performing intense sports, it is not necessary to stretch pre-exercise, but, it is still essential to have a “warm-up” activity that mimics the sport to be played. If you enjoy low intensity sports such as walking, then a pre-exercise stretch most likely will not hurt you- so, if it feels good, do it. But an important message goes out to coaches and athletes who are still including heavy pre-exercise stretching- THIS MAY BE HURTING THE ATHLETES! Seek professional advice from a qualified personal trainer, athletic trainer or sports and conditioning specialist for what best suits your sports.