Stretching before a run will not help or hurt you, according to a new study that will soon be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
A surprising outcome is that runners in the study who were told to stop stretching actually became more prone to injury, and runners who never stretched and began stretching had more injuries.
2,729 runners who ran at least 10 miles per week were assigned to two groups: a stretch group and a non-stretch group. Some runners who previously stretched, were told not to; and runners who did not stretch were told to stretch. A pre-run stretch consisted of stretching the quadriceps, hamstrings and Achilles for three to five minutes before a run.
1, 398 participants finished the study and, interestingly, the injury rate in both the stretch and non-stretch group was 16%, exactly the same.
However, runners who previously stretched and stopped has a 23% increase in injuries. Runners who did not stretch and started to stretch had a 22% increase in injuries. The researchers were unable to offer a clear cut explanation to the increase in injuries in either group.
The Take Home Message:
If you like to stretch, then stretch! There may be other benefits to stretching that have not been teased out by researchers. However, multiple studies, including this one, have suggested that stretching does not decrease your risk for injury when running.
If you stretch before a run, do not stop. If you do not stretch, there is no need to start.
You should always perform a light 1-3 minute warmup if you are participating in intense exercise.