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The Stretching Debate

Filed Under: Exercise and Fitness at 2:00 pm | By: Mauricio Matusiak

Most people believe that stretching can prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Some people often forget or choose not to stretch before and after physical activity. However, a recent study from researchers at the University of Sydney may spark some controversy to the subject.

Researchers examined 12 studies that looked at the effects of stretching before and after exercise. The research showed very consistent and somehow surprising results: stretching does not reduce muscle soreness. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is caused by unaccustomed exercise and occurs within 24 hours after exercise. The initial event that brings on DOMS is thought to be mechanical damage inside muscle fibers. This damage causes swelling and an inflammatory response, which is transmitted by the nervous system as pain.

Muscle soreness is caused by mechanical damage; therefore, stretching after exercise may not reduce pain as stretching damaged muscle fibers will likely do little to repair damaged muscles. The study also found that stretching before exercise did not reduce muscle soreness. The authors suggest that static stretching before exercise is safe for performance if the stretches are held for less than 30 seconds. The results of this review should not demonize stretching, but rather help athletes better understand how to stretch.

One study shouldn’t change the way people exercise and prevent muscle soreness but it’s interesting to find out different views and information about this important subject.

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