To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

June 8, 2013

The Great Stretching Debate – Before or After Exercise?


You come home from work, change into your gym clothes and tie your sneakers tight. You are ready to tackle a 5-mile run. With your iPod fully charged and your favorite tunes playing, you are ready to go! But wait – you need to stretch. “Do I need to stretch?” you ask yourself. “Magazines say so…people at the gym do it.” As you bring your feet hip distance apart and reach for the ground, you wonder, “Is this really necessary?” The great stretching debate has been going back and forth for years. Some professionals say “yes” and some say “you don’t need it.”


When I was attending classes to become a fitness professional, I remember one of my instructors asking the class, “If you were being chased by a lion, would you stop to stretch before running away?” The answer is obviously (and hopefully) no. With that being said, the human body clearly doesn’t need a good stretch before moving. The body will react to whatever you want it to do.


I always compare muscles to taffy. If you leave a piece of taffy in on the cold and want to split it in half, it snaps. If you leave taffy in a hot car and go to split it in half, it stretches. With that being said, you should always warm the body up before your stretching routine. Walking or jogging lightly will achieve that. The consensus among scientists who study stretching is that the practice has benefits. It reduces muscle soreness caused by strenuous exercise, for one thing (although, according to a 2011 review, by only about 1 point on a 100-point pain scale). Stretching also increases the range of motion in joints, and ‘‘maintenance of normal ranges of motion is an important fitness and wellness objective,’’ says Duane Knudson, chairman of the department of health and human performance at Texas State University in San Marcos.


So…to stretch or not to stretch? I will let you make that call. If you feel better doing a stretching routine, then do it! If you are lacking time, don’t sweat it. Save the sweating for the workout itself!


The Author

Karen Bobos, MSed

Karen M. Bobos, MSed, has been in the fitness industry since 1996 and feels her highest accomplishments are those results achieved by her clients through her guidance. She educates clients that there is no trick to being healthy, no magic pills, but rather optimal health is achieved through eating right and moving your body.

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