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Is Stretching Really Necessary?

From the Fitness & Wellness After Hysterectomy Articles List

Why do fitness experts always tell us to stretch before exercising?Why do fitness experts always tell us to stretch before exercising?

Research indicates that stretching before exercise does protect against muscle injury. Fitness experts have debated this for years, but a paper was recently presented describing a study on the cellular level of mice. If the muscle was stretched first, gentle "passive" stretching, then special injury-preventing cells showed up among the muscle fibers. It's best if done just before vigorous exercise.

Specifically, the study on mice showed that passive stretching released the protective anti-inflammatory chemical. Pushing a stretch to the extreme or "bouncing" did not release the protective chemical. If it hurts or it tears, it's not the kind of stretching they were studying.

Also, the gentle passive stretching needed to be done before vigorous exercise in order to be protective; that is, you want to release this chemical into the muscles that you are going to tax before you tax them. Stretching after exercise did not release this particular chemical. "Vigorous" obviously means something different for everyone, depending on fitness.

Warm up before the stretch and cool down were not covered in this study. Neither apparently were relevant to the release of this particular chemical. That doesn't mean that they are irrelevant, just not part of this particular chemical interaction.

It was good to know that there was hard evidence that a particular kind of stretching does indeed help prevent soreness and is worth doing—not just for fit athletes, but for anyone taxing their muscles—even if that is walking or beginning weights. Soreness stops a lot of people who start exercise and aren't fit, and this seems a way to minimize it and keep on track.

There is another argument for warm-ups according to a preventive care specialist on the faculty of the University of California, Irvine: Sudden all-out exercise floods your body with stress hormones and lowers immune response, so you can get more colds and flu, etc. Five to ten minutes of warm-ups (walking etc.) also lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow to the heart, and allows you to work out longer and burn more calories. Warm-ups may even help prevent exercise-induced headaches. They may also help muscle cells metabolize blood sugar.

So, warm up your whole body with walking or other gentle aerobic activity; then gently stretch the muscles you're going to use (hold each stretch for at least 60 seconds for the best release); then do something that's strenuous for you.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

07-17-2003 - 05:12 AM


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