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Stretching Ineffective Before Exercise


Am Fam Physician. 2003 Mar 15;67(6):1333.

Clinical Question: Does stretching before exercise decrease muscle soreness or injury?

Setting: Various (meta-analysis)

Study Design: Meta-analysis (randomized controlled trials)

Synopsis: Ever since I started coaching third-grade boys’ basketball, I’ve told countless kids that they must stretch before physical activity. I even stretch myself sometimes before running or biking. The authors evaluate the results of five studies on the effectiveness of stretching. The researchers searched several databases to find randomized or quasi-randomized studies. They only included studies that scored at least a three out of 10 on the basis of methodologic quality. Stretching regimens ranged from five to 10 minutes in most of the studies, although in one study participants stretched for less than two minutes (similar to my own regimen). Regardless of duration, stretching had no effect on muscle soreness measured at 24, 48, or 72 hours after exercise. Two studies evaluated the effect of stretching before exercise on military recruits, also yielding no effect on injury prevention. These results may not apply to the older “weekend warrior” or to a person just returning to exercise after a long break.

Bottom Line: Stretching before exercise does not decrease the likelihood of experiencing delayed muscle soreness. In young men, it also does not affect the rate of injury. (Level of Evidence: 1a)


Herbert RD, Gabriel M. Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. BMJ. August 31, 2002;325:468–70.

Used with permission from Shaughnessy A. Stretching ineffective before exercise. Retrieved February 14, 2003, from: http://www.InfoPOEMs.com.



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