From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Stretch or Just Take the Plunge?

If starting an activity — work, play or otherwise — means a pre-workout stretch, research once again is indicating that you may just be wasting your time.

Looking at 350 studies regarding the benefits of stretching before exercise, researchers from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have concluded that at present, there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that a pre-activity stretch has any value. In other words, all that time spent stretching could just be an exercise in futility.

“The current published research doesn’t show that stretching helps to prevent injuries,” Dr. Stephen B. Thacker, director of the CDC’s epidemiology program office, told Reuters Health. “However, there is not sufficient evidence to either endorse, or recommend discontinuing, routine stretching.”

But where does that leave the worker whose job includes a pre-work stretching regime? According to Thacker, beginning any activity slowly, rather than starting off with a stretch, could prove to be a better preventive measure against injury.

“Studies show that proper conditioning and warm-up can help participants avoid injury. The simplest approach is to start slowly at whatever activity you plan to do,” Thacker said.

That doesn’t mean that stretching is without merit. Thacker’s research group found support to indicate that stretching does improve flexibility; however, when injury-prevention is the goal, strength training, conditioning and warming up seem to play a stronger role than a pre-activity stretch.

A January 2004 report on the subject, published in The Ergonomics Report, conferred. “There’s very little that demonstrates efficacy of stretching,” Jennifer Hess, DC, MPH, told The Ergonomics Report. Hess, who has studied and compiled research on the injury prevention effectiveness of stretching, agrees that stretching can be an important part of injury rehabilitation, but more questions still need to be addressed regarding whether or not there’s a role for stretching in workplace injury prevention.

To prevent workplace injuries, Hess looks to proven sciences like ergonomics. “Whatever stretching is, it is clearly not a substitute for ergonomic analysis and intervention,” she said.

Sources: Reuters; The Ergonomics Report