How Long Do I Have to Stretch?
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
Should I stretch? How long? Every day? When can I quit?
All great questions I hear from my patients and clients. Stretching has been supported by many studies to help improve range of motion. While there are other strategies such as massage, joint mobilization, and resistance training that effectively improve range of motion (ROM), stretching has by far been most popular among the general population.
A recent study by Ewan Thomas and authors combined a large amount of research on stretching to learn how often and for how long stretching should be applied. The results were very practically helpful for those trying to gain motion or are enthusiasts for stretching.
Types of Stretching:
Pick the Type You Like
You may not be aware, but there are many types of stretching. In sum, the type of stretching was not as important as the time spent stretching. Static stretching, your typical hold a stretch for 30-60 seconds, performed the best by a minimal margin.
Time Spent Stretching Each Week:
5-10 Minutes per Muscle Group each Week
Perform Most Days of the Week
I was shocked that 5-10 minutes per muscle or muscle group each week was enough to start hitting a ceiling effect (the value diminishes after longer application). HOWEVER, the results were best who performed stretching 5 days weekly as compared to 2-3 days weekly. So the more often the better to an extent. My typical recommendation is to stretch 1-2 times daily for about a minute total with breaks if you need. Then if you miss a session, you still get at least 5 minutes weekly.
Should I Stretch?
Yes, No, Maybe
Are you a health person without any injury or medical concerns? Go for it.
Do you have pain? It may be okay to stretch into discomfort. It also may be damaging. It truly depends on the source of pain. This is why an assessment by a provider is helpful. A provider can tell you the likely cause of you pain and discuss the pros and cons of stretching for your individual circumstance.
These questions are VERY common. If you have questions about stretching or exercise, please email or call me. I'd love to help.
Thomas, Ewan, et al. “The Relation Between Stretching Typology and Stretching Duration: The Effects on Range of Motion.” International Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 39, no. 04, 5 Mar. 2018, pp. 243–254, 10.1055/s-0044-101146. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.