I think that most of us have been told that it is really important to stretch before we hit the gym, and do it again after we have finished. It is said to improve performance as well as reducing the risk of injury and post-exercise stiffness. It is one of those things that has just entered mass consciousness.
However a new study using the Cochrane database shows that stretching before or after exercise has little or no effect on muscle soreness between half a day and three days later.
Two researchers identified 10 relevant trials, each of which involved between 10 and 30 people. Nine of the studies had been carried out in laboratory situations and people stretched for everything from 40 seconds to 10 minutes.
The investigators used a 100-point scale to assess stiffness after exercise. The results showed that the effects of stretching were extremely small. Stretching reduced soreness by less than 1 point on the 100-point scale. The size of the effect was similar if stretching was performed before or after activity.
The authors point out that there is still a need to see whether stretching can have an effect on people in the community who have reduced levels of flexibility.
“A great man can bend and stretch.”
“The simple exercise of stretching helps to counter the congestions, compressions, and adhesions which obstruct the flow of the vital force through the spinal column with its sixty-two branching nerves and thus to regain energy. This truth of the need of spine-loosening movement is instinctively known by every dog and cat, every lion and tiger, for they apply it immediately after awakening from sleep. The back, the legs, and even paws are bent and stretched and even rolled by them in this natural exercise.”
--Paul Brunton (a.k.a. Raphael Hurst, English Philosopher, Traveler, Spiritual Teacher and Author, 1898-1981)
“Dachshunds are ideal dogs for small children, as they are already stretched and pulled to such a length that the child cannot do much harm one way or the other.”
--Robert Benchley (American Writer, Actor and Critic, 1899-1945)