Stretch before running? Study says do what you do

Updated: August 20, 2010, 7:04 PM ET
Associated Press

Should runners limber up before they head out on their path? Well, it's no stretch to say that the latest study left scientists reaching for the real answer.

In a clinical trial designed to shed light on a long-standing debate in the running world, USA Track and Field randomly split 3,000 runners into two groups -- asking some to stretch before running and others not to.

Both groups wound up with the same risk of injury -- 16 percent.

The most important conclusion from the study: If you're used to stretching, keep doing it, but if you're not, there's no need to start.

The most significant finding was that runners who normally stretched but were told not to for the experiment had twice the injury risk as regular stretchers who stayed on their routine.

Meanwhile, runners who normally start without pre-run stretching didn't necessarily improve their injury protection by starting a stretching routine.

Lump it all together, and there was no statistical difference between the stretchers and non-stretchers.

"More studies like this one should be conducted to confirm or refute the importance of other risk factors," said Darby Thompson, the study statistician.

The conclusions were in line with a 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control that found there wasn't enough information available to determine if the advice drilled into so many minds for so long -- that a good stretch was necessary before a good workout -- was really sound science.

A few other tidbits fit into the "Well, duh" category:

- People with higher body-mass indexes were more likely to be injured.

- People with a recent or chronic injury prior to participating in the study were more likely to be injured, though participation was limited to runners who had no injuries for six weeks before the study.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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