The Importance of a Good Stretch

iStock_000032069702XLarge_stretch 5x7Being new to the Virginia Beach area, I decided to join a recreational kickball team to meet people. During our first game, I saw many teams on and around the field, but there were two distinct groups of people; those who were taking time prior to the game to warm-up and stretch and those standing on the sidelines catching up with friends.

I cannot stress enough the importance of stretching prior to physical activity in reducing risk of muscular injuries. Research suggests that stretching and warming up three times, for 30 seconds per stretch, within 15 minutes prior to activity, provides the most benefit for lengthening tissue. 1

There are three different ways to warm up: passively using hot showers, heating pads, or saunas, actively through jogging or cycling and specifically through movements that imitate what you would be doing during an activity. Using kickball as an example, specific active warm-ups would include kicking or throwing if you are a pitcher.2

There are several different ways to stretch: static stretching involves a slow, passive movement with hold. An example of this is a hamstring stretch where you put your foot on a bench, keeping leg straight and lean forward until a stretch felt on the back of your leg holding for 30 seconds. Dynamic stretching involves bouncing motions. 2

An example of this would be a hamstring stretch position as stated above with forward and backward motions of the body.

Research supports the combination of warm up and static stretching for enhancing performance during activity.

Taking a few minutes prior to physical activity to warm-up and stretch can really have an influence on risk of muscular injury.

Elena Black PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist treating patients at our First Colonial clinic in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

 

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  1. Woods et al. Warm-up and stretching in prevention of muscular injury. Sports Med 2007; 37 (12)1089-1099.
  2. De Weijer VA, Gorniak GC, Shamus E. The effect of static stretch and warm-up exercise on hamstring length over the course of 24 hours. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2003; 33 (12): 727-33.
  3. McMillan DJ, Moore JF, Halter BS, Taylor DC. Dynamic VS static-stretching warm up: The effect on power and agility performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2006; 20 (3).