Stretching Before Running: Is It Smart?

Should you stretch before running? Some runners do – and some don’t.

It would seem that stretching would be a way to reduce the risk of injury. After all, running with warm muscles sounds like a good preventative strategy – but is it?

Stretching Before Running – Yes or No?

According to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, stretching before running doesn't prevent running injuries.

They discovered this after studying 2,729 runners, who ran at least 10 miles per week. The runners were divided into two groups. One group did 3 to 5 minutes of stretching exercises where they stretched all of the muscles in their legs before hitting the track. Another group did no stretching.

Surprisingly, it didn't seem to matter whether the runners stretched before running or not. The risk of for a running injury was the same. In fact, the biggest risk factors for a running injury was being overweight and having a history of an injury within the prior four months.

Runners who changed their approach to stretching such as starting to stretch when they normally didn't or stopping stretching after previously stretching before a run also increased their risk of injury. As you might expect, runners who logged lots of miles were at greater risk for a running-related injury.

Should You Stretch Before Running?

It may not reduce your risk of a running injury, but some runners feel better when they warm up their muscles before a run. If you choose to stretch, don't stretch cold muscles. Walk a few minutes to warm up before stretching them out. Do each stretch slowly, holding the position for 15 seconds - no sudden movements or bouncing.

The Bottom Line?

Whether or not you stretch before running may not affect your risk of getting a running injury, but being overweight and logging too many miles without giving your muscles a chance to rest does. If you've had a recent running injury, be conservative about how many miles you run, because your risk of injury is higher.

Stretch before running or not? Do what makes you feel comfortable, but be consistent. Don't stretch one time and not stretch the next time. Inconsistent stretching before a run can lead to injury.

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