Does Stretching Before Exercise Help?
Chiropractic medicine is focused on healthy lifestyles, pain relief, excellent mobility, and injury prevention. Naturally, exercise is a crucial part of good health. But exercise also presents opportunities for injuries – injuries that could leave you in pain or unable to be active while you recover.
Common knowledge states that you should stretch before exercising to help avoid and prevent injuries. But is this really true? Does “limbering up” before a jog, lifting weights, or yoga really help? While not all chiropractors and physiotherapists agree, most now state that stretching before exercise is not likely to prevent injuries and may actually be an invitation to “overdo it.”
Stretching – Too Much of a Good Thing?
While stretching may not lead to injury reduction during exercise, there is little question that stretching can increase flexibility. Flexibility is an important attribute for all athletes, but it is particularly useful for gymnastics, yoga, and many individual sports. However, it is all too easy to push too far during stretching.
The ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the human body are designed to stretch only so much. If you push past your limit while stretching, you stand the chance of injuring a muscle or connective tissue. You may tear or completely rupture a tendon, rip a muscle, or – in extreme cases – dislocate a joint. Such an injury may need months of recovery and could even require surgery to repair.
If Not Stretching, Then What?
Gentle, careful stretching can help to improve your flexibility and maybe even athletic performance, but many health professionals today maintain that stretching does not help appreciably in injury prevention. So what does? The answer is warming up and cooling down.
When you start your daily workout, do not go from 0 to 100 all at once. Rather, start off slowly and gradually reach your maximum effort. For example, if you’re a runner, start off at a modest jog for a kilometer or so before progressing to an all-out sprint. When lifting weights, begin with lighter lifting before attempting to set a new Olympic record.
The same concept holds true at the end of your workout. Instead of stopping all at once, cool down over a period of five to ten minutes. This will give your muscles a chance to relax and your metabolism the opportunity to return to normal.
So remember, stretching is not necessarily bad, as long as you don’t overdo it. But for effective injury prevention, always incorporate a warm up and cool down into your daily exercise regimen. See your chiropractor if you ever need advice or have questions about exercise. They are a great source of information.