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Should You Stretch Before or After Exercise, or Both?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

should you stretch before or after exercise

Story at-a-glance -

  • The bulk of the scientific evidence does not support the recommendation to stretch before exercising to prevent injury
  • Most injuries occur during eccentric contraction within normal range of motion. Therefore, increasing your range of motion before exercise is unlikely to prevent injury
  • Stretching appears to increase pain tolerance, which could encourage injury. The benefit seen in studies that support stretching before exercise as a way to avoid injury appears to be due to the warmup sequence, not the stretching
  • The purpose of the warmup is to increase circulation and blood flow to your muscles, and there are many simple ways to do this. Aerobic exercises such as squats, jumping jacks, cycling and even walking are examples
  • As with stretching before exercise, it turns out it’s not the stretching after exercise that is the most useful if you’re looking to prevent pain and injury. A more beneficial option is active recovery or active cool-down, such as light weightlifting, mild yoga, cycling, walking, rowing or swimming

Most would probably agree that stretching is an important part of a well-balanced fitness routine, but exactly when should you stretch? Before or after your workout? Both? Neither? To tease out the pros and cons, let’s take a look at what the fitness literature has to say about these options.

If you’re like most, you’re probably convinced that stretching before exercise is important for the prevention of injury. Would it surprise you to learn that the scientific evidence does not support this theory?


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