The Downside to Stretching Muscles
Balance, reaction, movement time impaired in Canadian study
Aug. 19, 2004 -- Stretching your muscles before exercise may not give you
the edge you expect.
Canadian researchers at the University of Newfoundland put stretching to the
test in a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports &
Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
The study had a small number of participants -- 16 healthy male college
Led by David Behm, PhD, the researchers started the experiment by having all
the participants warm up with a ride on a stationary bike for five minutes.
Next, some of the students stretched certain leg muscles.
They stretched to the point of discomfort, holding each stretch for 45
seconds without bouncing. The stretches were performed three times, with
15-second rest breaks between stretches.
Meanwhile, the students in the comparison group had it easier. They didn't
stretch at all. Instead, they were allowed to rest for about 26 minutes after
their five minutes of cycling.
Afterward, all the students were tested to measure their leg extension
force, balance, reaction time, and movement time.
Researchers used special equipment, including a wobble board, to gauge any
differences between the two groups.
Balance, reaction time, and movement time were better in the students who
The differences were "low but significant percentage changes," write
the researchers, who say the reason may be that stretching changes muscle
Though the gaps weren't large, it might make a difference to elite athletes
seeking the slightest competitive advantage or to elderly people with balance
and stability problems.
There was no significant difference in force output between the two
If you stretch to improve your flexibility, there's no reason to stop. This
study didn't examine whether stretching affected flexibility.