Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do you have to stretch before you exercise?"
I run, play tennis, etc. And anytime I exercise I never stretch. Is this bad for your muscles? Does it make them weaker? Do you really have to stretch before you exercise or is that some kind of an urban legend?
Stretching routines performed during warm-up procedures may help you improve flexibility for a short time. However, there is little evidence to prove that stretching reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness, prevents injuries or improves performance so it is not really possible to answer the question with absolute certainty. With that said, I think it is fair to say that most people who stretch do feel better as a result of it. It is important when exercise to tune in to your body and feel where the tension is to do at least some stretching. Stretching may help you increase your range of motion. It also increases blood flow to the muscle, which is greatly beneficial. But, stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good. Such harm is that stretching cold muscles may cause injury. For instance, you may hurt yourself if you don't warm up your muscles with some light walking or jogging for 5-10 minutes before stretching. On the other hand, if you have a chronic condition or an injury, it may be necessary to adjust your stretching or else it may cause further harm. In short, you don't have to stretch before your workout but, if you do, make sure to do it correctly. I would suggest a consultation with a sport medicine specialist or physical therapist about the best way to stretch if you have any health concerns.
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