Stretching: No Evidence It Prevents Running Injuries

It is a myth that static stretching improves running performance and decreases the risk of injuries.

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Photo by Alexander Redl on Unsplash

Are you a runner? You may have heard certain beliefs about running injury risks, injury risk reduction, and performance. While anecdotal reports have some value, I want to offer you some recommendations based on higher-level evidence.

In Melbourne, Australia, physiotherapists from La Trobe University are researchers who happen to run most days of the week. They also work with runners of various abilities. When chatting with their clients, they often dispel myths regarding warm-up activities and stretching.

To provide information, these physiotherapists created a series of five “Running Myth” infographics, in which they discuss strength training and heavy resistance exercises. In their stretching publication, they bust the myth that static muscle stretching (or lengthening a muscle to the point of tension for thirty seconds per stretch) reduces injury probability. They also destroy the mistaken belief that static stretching reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness after strenuous runs.

In contradistinction, the researchers offer that stretching improves joint range of motion and can help runners after a run. Given the stress running places on joints and tissues, runners have a higher chance of developing running-related overuse injuries. You know the problems: Shin splints, joint pain, Achilles tendinitis, and more. Clinicians see these problems more common among those who increase their running intensity, frequency, or duration too rapidly.

Here’s What You Should Do

Build your running performance through progressive training sessions. It can help to work in an active warm-up that involves five to ten minutes of walking or light jogging. Got a fast race? You may wish to try six to eight dynamic stretching drills to take your joints through a full range of motion. Walking lunges, leg swings. The authors also recommend ending the warm-up with three short running bursts, such as three hundred-meter dashes.

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Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash

While warm-ups can improve running performance, it remains unsettled whether they reduce injury rates. But, progressive training and improved running performance should reduce injuries.

Static stretching may alleviate sensations of tightness, but they do not reduce long-term injury probabilities. A small amount of static stretching is not unreasonable, but there is no high-level evidence to help you dodge injury.

Rather than performing a lot of static stretching, you should be better served with specific strength training exercises and progressing their running at a sensible rate to reduce injury chances.

Written by

I have degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Penn. I am a radiation oncologist in the Seattle area. You may find me regularly posting at www.newcancerinfo.com

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