How often should I stretch?

How often do I need to stretch?  I wish I lost a pound every time I was asked this question, but the answer isn’t an easy one. Every time we turn around there seems to be a different debate about stretching. We started with static stretching back when I was in college, always holding it for 30 seconds. Why? Because someone did some research that seemed to work. But then dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching, PNF and a whole range of other techniques came about and static stretching went by the wayside.

When I make my programs for people I take the latest science out there, but also use a bit of experience. How many actual seconds should you hold a stretch? American College of Sports Med Guidelines were at 15-30 seconds. However, I have never met one person, patient or client, including myself, count an actual thirty seconds. I’m lucky to get someone to hold it 5-10 seconds and half of that time is not in proper form, but something is better than nothing and motion is always good in my book.

So what does the science say on how many days a week? Ewan et. al. came out with an article in the International Journal of Sports Medicine that says 5-10 TOTAL minutes of stretching 5 days a week seems to show the best outcomes.  Less than 5 minutes showed no statistical changes. For you overachievers, it interestingly showed that stretching every day did not have better results than 5 days a week. So, for those of you who don’t like to stretch every day or just plain forget---no worries, you will still be just as good with 5 and you only have to do 5 minutes. Totally doable.   

But what kind of stretching are we talking about? Believe it or not, static stretching (those stretches were we just hold and stretch) tended to be better than dynamic (think walking lunge, movement based stretching)  for motion. Doesn’t mean the other types of stretching shouldn’t be in your program, but it gives a general outlook that all motion is usually good.

Motion, flexibility and correct movement patterns are essential to injury prevention. Not sure how to stretch properly or want a movement assessment? Contact a local PT to create an individualized program to address your needs!

Kellie Bedoni