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Do I really have to stretch?

Overqualified: Yale faculty answer your everyday questions

Michael Sloan

Michael Sloan

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Q: “I run an average of three miles a day. My sister is always bugging me because I don’t stretch before or after running. Should I be stretching to help prevent injury?”

A: Congratulations on having a consistent exercise program! You are in the minority of Americans who meet the CDC’s recommendation for 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity in physical activity. Adding two sessions a week of strength or resistance training would also be evidence-based to improve your health. There’s no strong scientific evidence to support “static stretching” (holding a muscle in a stretched position for typically 15 to 60 seconds) as a way to prevent injury, so I would not say that it’s required—but warming up and cooling down are important parts of every workout.

Try adding a dynamic warm-up that includes exercises to increase your heart rate, get your joints moving, and increase your core body temperature before you run. There are great suggestions of dynamic warm-up routines widely available online. That said, many people feel that a regular stretching program helps them feel more limber and promotes a sense of physical well-being. So if your sister enjoys stretching, I would not discourage her!

Samantha Smith, assistant professor of clinical orthopedics and rehabilitation, Yale School of Medicine.

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