A Healthier U


By Gabby Gonzalas, marketing coordinator for University of Utah Health

It’s important to stretch to maintain healthy joints and have appropriate mobility for physical activity. But do we really know how long we should stretch for? If we should always stretch before exercise? Eon Jarvis, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist with University of Utah Health says some stretching rules may be stretching the truth.

You have to stretch before exercise.

Not very likely.  Many people believe that if you stretch before exercise it will reduce your risk for injury. There is no evidence to back up that claim. Instead you should focus on stretching consistently, not just before or after an exercise. Try doing dynamic stretching or moving while you stretch. These stretches will not only keep muscles loose but also can increase range of motion and improve body awareness.

You should hold a stretch for 30 seconds.

Sure, you can hold the stretch for 30 seconds, but you don’t have to. The truth is, there is no exact dosage of time that you should be holding your stretch. Stretching can take anywhere from 15-60 seconds. While stretching you want to feel moderate discomfort, but not pain. Hold until you feel comfortable then move onto the next stretch.

You can never stretch enough.

Yep, you can actually stretch too much. If you’re over doing it there is  a possibility you can irritate your muscles. If you’re having pain and stretching provides some benefit but nothing long term, you may want to focus on strengthening those areas instead. It’s true that if you are participating in any physical activity you may want to stretch more because you are putting your muscles through stress.

Stretching will lengthen your muscle tissues.

False. When you stretch your stretch tolerance increases, but your muscle tissues are not lengthening. For example, imagine the simple hamstring test. When you sit on the ground and reach for your toes the first time you may not be able to reach. After each attempt to touch your toes, you will get closer, this is because your tolerance of the stretch has improved – not because you have longer hamstrings.

“Stretching can be an important component of your physical activity and well-being. Just remember to stretch consistently, when you stretch you want to feel a moderate stretch discomfort, and figure out what works best for you.” Dr. Jarvis.


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