Health Check: do you need to stretch before and after exercise?

Health Check: do you need to stretch before and after exercise?

Many of us recognise the benefit of exercise to improve our health and reduce the fatigue that often comes with CLL. "Many people stretch when they exercise or play sport. Others don’t stretch but feel they should. And some people don’t see any reason to stretch at all.

The reasons for stretching are diverse. Most people think stretching makes them more flexible. Some believe stretching reduces the risk of injury, reduces soreness experienced after exercise, or enhances sporting performance. Optimists think stretching does all these things.

But do we really need to stretch when we exercise? And does stretching increase flexibility, reduce the risk of injury, reduce soreness and enhance sporting performance? The answer is neither yes nor no."

Rob Herbert, Senior Principal Research Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia explains:

theconversation.com/health-...

The summary: "For recreationally active people, these research findings suggest stretching might have a very small benefit and probably won’t do any harm. If you like stretching, stretch. If you don’t like stretching, don’t do it and don’t feel guilty about not doing it."

and

"To finish on a more positive note: while it appears that stretching doesn’t appreciably reduce risk of injury, there’s good evidence that warming up does. An intensive, well-structured, active warm-up can substantially reduce risk of injury, so try doing that the next time you exercise."

plus in response to a comment on cramping after exercise:

"Many people who experience cramps feel that regular stretching helps to reduce the incidence of cramps. There has been little in the way of research to back up this observation: see onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi... for a summary of the very limited evidence. Of course once a cramp has begun, stretching is a very effective way of stopping the cramp."

I've noticed I'm more likely to experience leg cramps in my calf muscle when waking up the morning after a long walk and stretching the calf muscle stops the cramp; but it can be mighty painful quickly getting out of bed and putting my weight on the leg with the cramp!

Neil

4 Replies

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  • For cycling, I just hop on and go although I do find that after two or three hours hunched over the handlebars, its great to get in a few stretches.

    I also do a weight training session a couple of times a week and always do a short stretching session beforehand, if only to make sure that the body is happy going through the motions before adding weight (and maybe injury).

  • In over 40 years of cycling, my injuries have come from contact with hard surfaces - cars and the ground! Like you, I'd just hop on and ride and on my way home from work, that would be as fast as I could go (but admittedly that was constrained by traffic lights and other vehicles). About 10 years ago, I did start to take it easy at the start of the ride to warm up after reading that was recommended. I couldn't see why the straight handlebars were so much more popular than the drop handlebars, because drop handlebars give you so many more opportunities to change your posture and reduce the the likelihood of getting uncomfortable from spending too long in the one position.

    Neil

  • Have run 7 marathons and hundreds of other races, 80,000 miles. Never been a stretcher and no joint or tendon/ligament issues.

  • .... and some are now so immobile that stretching IS their exercise ... groan!