Skip the Stretching

From the days of gym class in elementary school, we have all been taught that it is beneficial to stretch before any physical activity. But touching our toes and counting to ten before hopping on a treadmill may in fact hurt more than help. After reading The New York Times article titled Stretching:  The Truth, I learned that this form of static stretching actually weakens your muscle. According to a study done by the University of Nevada, “athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all.” Other studies have gone on to prove that muscle strength can decrease by as much as 30% as well as weaken the opposite leg. Straining the muscle in a static stretch causes the muscle to become less responsive and weakens it for up to 30 minutes.

Just realized you’re pre-workout routine has been wrong all along? Professionals say that the overall goal of stretching is to literally warm up the body. This loosens the muscles and tendons and increases their range of motion by increasing the blood flow they receive. The best way to do this is by light aerobic exercise - jogging at a pace of about 40% of your natural heart rate and increasing to about 60%. This 10 minute warm-up should be followed by a 5 minute “recovery.” 15 minutes total and you’re ready to start your workout. Dynamic stretching, as this warm-up is referred to, “increases power, flexibility, and range of motion.”  Planning on going for a long run? Add lunges and squats into your warm up to activate all necessary joints and connective tissues. Preparing for an intramural game of basketball? Your warm-up should include more parts of the body since that activity requires use of more limbs. Read the article to see exactly what stretches are the best to maximize your workout ability and minimize the risk of injury. Until then, avoid touching those toes!