Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

The Greatest Side Effect Of Stretching

February 21, 2024

In our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics we commonly prescribe mobility or stretching exercises to reduce pain and restore lost function.  Accelerating a patient’s return to the activities they enjoy.  When combined with other forms of exercise, in particular strength training, stretching is an effective method of restoring lost motion in joints or flexibility in muscles.   In individuals without pain looking for improved health, performance, or injury prevention the story changes.

Medical research has not found much benefit on stretching for overall health, disease risk, performance, or injury prevention in individuals without pain.  Although short term benefits of stretching are noted, long term benefits have not been found when compared against more effective forms of exercise such as aerobic exercise or strength training.  The greatest side effect of pursuing stretching is lost time that could be devoted towards these more effective forms of exercise.

Similar to the food pyramid recognized by most middle schoolers exercise participants should create a similar pyramid on the priorities for their exercise program.  Starting with cardiovascular training most days of the week, followed by strength training 2-3 days a week, balance training, and finally stretching.  Individuals who are short on time each week are recommended to not substitute time for the bottom of the pyramid to pursue stretching exercises.  Conversely, for those meeting the national guidelines for exercise stretching can be added based on individual goals.

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