Without doubt, stretching should be undertaken, particularly if you do any form of exercise or sport, but equally, flexibility stretching will help you to keep supple, particularly as you age.
However, the most important aspect of stretching is when to do what! There are basically two types of stretching – Static Stretches (flexibility stretches)_ and Dynamic Stretches (movement stretches). And it is important to understand when you should be using them.
Thoughts have changed over recent years, concerning stretching, and there is still controversy concerning stretching prior to participating in the sport of your choice, however, I prefer to follow the advice of Dr. Paul Roetert, who is a fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine who has researched this in depth together with another eminent physiologist.
There is no doubt that a sports person should stretch before participating, but the difference now, is what stretching to do, and this is where there is a differing view.
It has been discovered, that doing static stretching prior to playing a game; that the muscles take up to 20 minutes to fully recover from these stretches; I personally go along with this idea.
Having said this, there are still coaches who subscribe to the old school, of doing static stretches before play and there are also coaches who have not heard of the new thoughts abroad, and these also still do static stretches.
Therefore, in my estimation, it is preferable to undertake dynamic stretching prior to play and to do the static or flexibility stretches at the end of play, in the form of a warm down. The difference between the two types of stretches is as follows:
Static stretches – Example, when you put one foot forward and hold it for 30 seconds.
Dynamic stretches – Example, when you lunge forward with the foot and immediately recover back without stopping.
The problem we have, is that there are people who undertake sport, and who are prone to injury in any event, and this also clouds the issue.
Suffice to say, at this stage, I have been doing tough sport (Basketball & Tennis to a high standard) for over 50 years and much of that time, I did static stretches and lots of the time, no stretches, without suffering any adverse effects, but there again, there are people who do not get injuries, in spite of their bad habits. It is, however, better to be safe than sorry.
I do therefore advise all of my current pupils in my new way of thinking – we need to move with the times.