Evidence Suggests That Stretching Does Not Prevent Running Injuries

Science | By Jamal Mack | December 1, 2019

Despite being torturous for many people, running is an incredibly popular hobby. Every day you can see people running around city streets, parks, or tracks. It's a great way to keep healthy or just clear your mind after a long and stressful day. They say runners are running away from something in their lives.

We are taught to run very early on in our lives. Kids run for play, but then they are also forced to run for physical education classes. It is in these classes where we learn our first bits of kinesiastic knowledge, often taught to us by a PE teacher who has more experience in math than the human body.

It's no wonder that what we've been taught our entire lives might be completely unfounded and wrong. Who were we to question? Now it is coming to light that the advice we were given our whole lives about stretching before we run might be completely false. Read on to find out why and how.

Stretching Doesn't Hurt, but Doesn't Help

What's the first thing you do before running? I bet it is stretching. Why is that? Most likely because you've been told your whole life that you should stretch before your run to improve your performance and make sure you don't injure yourself, however, that is a total myth. The British Journal of Sports Medicine just released a study revealing that an active warm-up is what is best at helping running performance, and it is progressive training that reduces the risk of injury.

What exactly does stretching do then? It doesn't hurt, and can actually keep joints flexible, but that's about it. Don't stress if you forgot to stretch before your run. "Runners have certain beliefs around running injury risks, injury prevention and performance that are in contrast to current research evidence," said James Alexander, of La Trobe University in Melbourne.

You Can Skip the Stretching

James Alexander is the lead author of an infographic that was designed to show runner fact from fiction. "These beliefs drive runners to continue to pursue ineffective or non-optimal strategies within their running training, whether through static stretching for injury prevention or low-load strength training for performance." James Alexander is also a physiotherapist. He and his team are runners themselves and also work with other runners. It was working with other runners where he and his team were able to discuss myths runners have about their running routine.

They will be publishing a series of running myth infographics in the upcoming months. Their infographics completely bust the myth that stretching muscles reduces injury. Some runners use another type of stretching called static stretching, but the research also says that static stretching doesn't do much either.

Progressive Training is Key

It is not as if stretching is completely useless. It does help the joints and can be a relaxing activity after running. The authors of the study stress that most injuries from running come from running too much, with too much intensity, or for too long. What is suggested is that runners do progressive training, which means running or lightly jogging for 5-10 minutes before starting their full run. Mix in short bursts of 100-meter dashes as well.

James Alexander concluded, "If runners wish to do a small amount of static stretching and find anecdotally that it helps them, it probably won't negatively impact performance or increase injury risk. Rather than prioritizing static stretching, runners would be better off engaging with specific strength training exercises and progressing their running at a sensible rate to avoid injury."



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