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Pre-Exercise Stretching May Not Be Helpful

Stretching After or Between Exercise -- Not Before -- Cuts Injury Risk

How to Stretch

Shrier and Raya both agree that a warm-up before stretching is essential. And while he doesn't recommend acute stretching, Shrier strongly advises warm-up before exercise. What kind of warm-up is best?

"Use the muscles you plan to use in the activity. Start slow, increase gradually," he says. "If jogging, start with walking, then jog slow and then slowly increase the speed until you are running at your regular pace -- maybe five to 15 minutes depending on your level of fitness. If you are planning to race, don't worry about tiring yourself out. Do this before the race to have the best race time. Don't stretch before."

Regular stretching improves flexibility, Shrier and Raya agree.

Raya says that people who want to improve their flexibility should stretch every day. Those comfortable with their flexibility, she says, need to stretch only three times a week. She advises athletes preparing for a specific event to be sure to stretch the all the muscles they'll be using in the sport.

"It is real important to maintain the stretch for 30 seconds," Raya says. "If you hold a stretch for less than 30 seconds, there's no proof you lengthen the muscle. And if you hold it longer, you do no extra good beyond the first 30 seconds."

Raya warns that bouncing while stretching -- known as ballistic stretching -- seems particularly unhelpful. She advises against it unless a person has specifically trained to perform these kinds of stretches.

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