Stretching Won't Prevent Sore Muscles
Researchers Say Stretching Before or After Exercise Has Little or No Effect on Soreness
Oct. 17, 2007 -- Stretching before or after vigorous exercise won't spare
you the agony of sore muscles, according to a new review.
Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia arrived at the
conclusion after reviewing the results of 10 published studies.
The review "showed very clear results that stretching is not effective
in avoiding muscle soreness," says study researcher Marcos de Noronha, a
PhD candidate at the university. The study is published in the latest issue of
The Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews.
Debates about what stretching can or can't do have gone on for years;
advocates claim it not only reduces muscle soreness but also improves
performance and reduces injury risk.
The Australian researchers focused only on the ability of stretching to
reduce soreness. And if your only reason to stretch is to avoid soreness, de
Noronha says the review proves "you don't need to go through the hassle
because it does not actually work."
"However, if you stretch because you feel good when you do so, then go
for it since there is no evidence that stretching before or after exercise is
harmful," he says.
While de Noronha says this review should lay to rest the long-running debate
about the effect of stretching the major muscle groups on muscle soreness,
another expert tells WebMD he still believes it works and that the debate is
not over yet.
A Closer Look at the Study
The Sydney researchers focused on what is known as delayed-onset muscle
soreness, which usually occurs within the first day after extensive exercise
and then peaks at about 48 hours. Nine of the studies were done in
laboratory settings in which participants came in and exercised and then
reported how sore they were later; one study looked at football players who
reported their soreness after playing.
Three studies zeroed in on pre-exercise stretching, while the others
assessed post-exercise stretching. Six studies compared participants assigned
randomly to either stretch or not.
Participants stretched for 40 seconds to 600 seconds per session. De Noronha
and researcher Robert Herbert, PhD, a senior research fellow at the university,
used a 100-point scale to assess stiffness after exercise.
Pre-exercise stretching reduced soreness one day after exercise by, on
average, less than 0.5 on a 100-point scale. Post-exercise stretching reduced
soreness a day later by 1 point." Similar effects were evident between half
a day and three days after exercise," the researchers write.