Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Necessary Is Stretching?

I've discussed this controversial topic on stretching before in our other blog on Feb 23 this year on whether stretching improves performance or can stretching prevent exercise related injury.

This topic was what today's New York Times discussed as well, on whether stretching was necessary. The link of the article was sent by one of my patients (thanks PJ), while I went to look up the article.

Researchers from the study had long distance track and field athletes do the classic sit and reach test (in picture above) to see how flexible their hamstrings were. Most Singaporeans will be familiar with this having done the test while in school.

Here is the most shocking news in the study. When the researchers compared the runners sit and reach measurements to their running economy, the most inflexible runners (both male and female) were the most economical (i.e. running more efficiently). What's more, the most inflexible had the fastest 10km race times. The reason? Researchers concluded that tighter (or more inflexible) muscles allow "greater elastic energy storage and use" while running. Being inflexible seems to make running easier.

Well, as I discussed in the other blog, all this seems to point towards less stretching. So even if you get nagged at to stretch, bear in mind that there is not much scientific evidence for that. Especially static stretches before you exercise (please see other blog - link above).

*Picture from Max Oppenheim/Getty Images

Here is the link to the New York Times article.

Trehearn TL and Buresh RJ (2009). Sit-and-reach Flexibility and Running Economy of Men and Women Collegiate Distance Runners. J Strength Cond Res 23(1): 158-162.

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