Was your old P.E. teacher wrong about stretching?

Was your old P.E. teacher wrong about stretching?

PORTLAND, Ore. - Catlin Gabel senior Hayley Ney is a two-sport athlete - cross country in the fall and basketball in the winter. But all that running is catching up to her.

“Yeah, I have plantar fasciitis in both of my feet,” she said.

She is referring to the inflammation or swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot.

“For some people it's a really, really sharp pain that comes and goes,” Ney said. “Mine is more kind of sore all the time, a little bit of cramping … for that I do tons of icing, lots of Advil, lots of stretching.”

But she doesn’t do just any stretching and not just at any time. Researchers say holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds when the muscles are cold - known as static stretching - can actually weaken the muscles and cause injuries.

Physical therapists like Ben Nelson from Kaiser Permanente suggest a new kind of stretching called "dynamic stretching."

“You're looking to warm the muscles, the ligaments, the tendons up to prepare them to be stretched,” he said. “Just like gum, cold gum doesn't stretch as good as warm gum.”

Dynamic stretching uses movement and momentum to warm up and slowly stretch the muscles. Unlike static stretching, the final position is not held.

This does not mean you should not do static stretching anymore, Nelson said. It is still prescribed for folks in rehab and is still effective during a person’s cool down.

A suggested warm-up, stretching routine

Learn more about dynamic stretching