Flexibility remains one of the most commonly assessed and prescribed areas in health and fitness. A significant amount of time and resources continue to be dedicated to this mode of exercise often at the expense of more valuable areas including aerobic exercise and strength training. Although mobility focused Physical Therapy exercises have their place and remain important for injury and post operative conditions, stretching exercises for the general population continue to be questioned in the research. A recent editorial in the journal Sports Medicine argues to “retire” flexibility as a part of your weekly exercise program (Nuzzo. 2019).
A review of the available research on healthy individuals demonstrates little to no impact of flexibility exercises on current or future health or wellness outcomes. The impact of stretching significantly lags behind other more valuable exercise modes including aerobic exercise and resistance training. In comparison, these two modes of exercise have been shown to improve health and fitness, reduce disease and injury risk, as well as, improve an individual’s lifespan. As reported in our previous blogs, if flexibility is desired individuals are encouraged to use strength training through an available range of motion instead of static stretching. In particular, eccentric training has been shown to be more effective than static stretching for improving muscle length.
In short, when time and resources are limited individuals are encouraged to use aerobic exercise and strength training to optimize their health and fitness benefits.