This is one of those times where something we’ve been all told has turned out to be not what it should be. In this case, it’s about the value of stretching before and after exercising.
What’s this? Isn’t stretching good for exercising? Surely this has a bit to be a major mistake. Millions will attest to the benefits of stretching. Many claim it prevents tears and cramps. Others claim it increases blood flow and general well being. For some reason, people find it beneficial but a recent study suggests that stretching isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
First of all, people stretch before, during, and after exercising. Some sports and activities call for stretching before or after or during. There are variations to when to stretch and which muscle groups to stretch. One expert will flash with another. The study, however, pinpoints more of what stretching does and doesn’t.
The research was done by over a dozen scientists. Their research showed that the blood flow was one major drawback. Stretching, it appears, negatively affects blood flow, the velocity of the red blood cells, capillary region oxygenation.
What this all means is that stretching regarding blood flow is not a good idea. The researchers suggested that mild exercising after an exercise regimen might be a better way to cool down.
As for making the muscle tissue and ligaments and tendons stronger, and more flexible, the study didn’t mention anything. It stands to reason that since its body tissue stretching does help these tissues even at the cost of blood flow efficiency.
In this case, stretching was listed under the recovery techniques of exercising. That ranges from massage to whatever brings about less stress and damage to the body. When one exercises one tears muscle fiber for one thing. That muscle fiber then grows back to repair the damaged area and thus makes the muscle firmer and larger. That muscle has to be fed with the proper nutrients too. Stretching may assist this process or processes but in regard to blood flow it comes up short.
It gets very technical but in short, stretching isn’t for blood flow. As for recovery, that information is still out in the wind. Bringing muscles into alignment or shoring up tendons and ligaments may be the real remedial effect that people are satisfied but didn’t know until this research had come out. Now it’s time for researchers to see what effect that stretching does have that is beneficial and how can people apply it the right way.
Perhaps stretching in tandem with some other practice may be just what the doctor ordered. Yoga is a worldwide phenomenon and has been practiced for thousands of years. People and medical science see benefits in it when done properly.
What does this say about the fitness industry? Probably not much. Even though this research seems to fly in the face of reason, that’s what science does and we call that reality. Pro sports and school sports should read this data and have their experts evaluate the value. It might improve or might undermine fitness progress, but it’s sure to cause many a debate as the research is further explored.
Picture Credit: @javi_indy