The common confusion between warming up and stretching comes from a misinterpretation of research on warm up. Warming up by itself has no effect on range of motion, but when the warm up is followed by stretching there is an increase in range of motion. Many people misinterpreted this finding to mean that stretching before exercise prevents injuries. A better interpretation is that warm up prevents injury, whereas stretching has no effect on injury. If injury prevention is the primary objective, and time is short, then people should limit the stretching before exercise in favor of increased warm up time.
Many studies however do support that range of motion can be increased by a single fifteen to thirty second stretch for each muscle group per day. Some people might require a longer duration or more repetitions. Research also supports the idea that the optimal duration and frequency for stretching may vary by muscle group.
A nice benefit is that long term effects of stretching on range of motion show that after six weeks, those who stretch for 30 seconds per muscle each day increased their range of motion much more than those who stretched 15 seconds per muscle each day. Another 6 week study conducted found that one hamstring stretch of 30 seconds each day produced the same results as three stretches of 30 seconds. These studies support the use of thirty second stretches as part of warm up regiment to improve range of motion. So make sure you AIF members warm up AND stretch before exercising.
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