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Really?
The Claim: Stretching Can Prevent Soreness and Injury

New York Times February 26, 2008

Anahad O’Connor

Stretching — long promoted as a way to prevent injury, to reduce soreness and to speed post-exercise recovery — may not fulfill its promise. Over the years, scientists have found that stretching before or after a workout has little effect on either risk of injury or what is commonly known as delayed onset of muscle soreness, the discomfort that comes a day or more after challenging physical activity.

Numerous studies have reached this conclusion. One of the most recent and extensive reports was published in October in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The report reviewed 10 randomized studies, which over all looked at the impact of stretching before and after exercise, in repeated sessions and in intervals ranging from 40 seconds to 10 minutes. The authors concluded that stretching had little or no effect on post-exercise soreness.

Another systematic review, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2004. It looked at multiple studies and found that stretching “was not significantly associated with a reduction in total injuries,” but also concluded that more research was needed.

For now, many experts say that what may work is a quick warm-up, like low-impact aerobics or walking. It also helps to ease into an activity by starting off slow and then increasing speed, intensity or weight (for lifting).

THE BOTTOM LINE

Research suggests that stretching does not affect soreness or risk of injury during exercise.

scitimes@nytimes.com