Running and knee osteoarthritis, pre-run static stretching
by on Monday, April 20, 2015  (4 comments)

Two studies in this post that remind us to keep an open mind until the science is settled.

Running and knee osteoarthritis

If there is one health factor for which it seems running may be bad for us, that would be knee osteoarthritis. Do we essentially wear our knees out by running? Possibly.

Or, possibly, not.

These results, the team says, suggest that regular running does not raise the risk of knee osteoarthritis among the general population; it may actually protect against the disease.

Is it a sure thing? Hardly. However, this is a positive sign and this also makes sense intuitively. While we do place a lot of strain on our knees while running, most runners will not run upwards of 1 hour per day. For the other 15 hours (if you figure 16 waking hours a day) we're carrying less weight around on our knees as the average runner weighs less than the average non-runner.

Which is harder on the knees? Running 1 hour or less per day or carrying extra weight all day? It's hard to say for sure but this gives us some hope that there is another positive health aspect to running. At the very least, it might not be bad for us in this one way it has seemed it could be. Again, hardly a sure thing right now but definitely something I'd like to see more on.

Pre-run static stretching

We've heard a lot in recent years about how pre-run static stretching is probably bad for your running performance. It makes sense. Elastic muscles are more efficient as they can act like springs or rubber bands to store energy when stretched and release that energy upon contraction.

However, a new study suggests this may not be the case:

These data suggest that SS of short duration (<30 sec) may actually improve acute speed performance, whereas SS of moderate duration may not hamper speed and agility performance.

What to make of this? Personally, I'm not taking too much into this at the moment, other than to keep an open mind. Maybe static stretching is bad. Maybe it's actually good. It's hard to say right now. This is the nature of science, though. We don't always have a clear picture of things.

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Interesting note.

To be honest I did not find any difference in stretching before or after exercise, i mean when you finish your run of course it feels good to stretch since the muscles are wamed up. But I used to stretch before exercise without problems in the past.

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Cesar, to be honest, I've also never noticed a big difference. I've done gentle stretching before running at all; warmup, stretch, workout; no stretching at all before a workout. I've done static stretching, fast and slow dynamic stretching. I've done every combination of every variable I can think of. I can't say I've noticed a difference personally. Others tell me they do notice a difference. I don't know enough to say they are not noticing something real.

As you mention, I feel much better when I stretch after a run than when I don't. So I stretch after all my runs. As for before, I do what seems right. Often now, that means no static stretching. However, I raced this past weekend and I did do some static stretching pre-race because I was feeling some tightness. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

In the end, I don't think there is a consensus on pre-run stretching. What I have seen is holding pre-exercise stretches for long times (over a minute) are potentially harmful to performance but holding them for shorter times (less than 30 seconds) is inconclusive. I think it's likely that the reason for the lack of consensus on the shorter durations is that the differences are minor and very possibly individual variability could tip the scale in either direction.

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Mythroment43 (Guest)

Stretching before running will slow down our start, but the effect of it will wore off after a few minutes so overall finishing time won't affect. My therapist in Toronto advised me that stretching before exercise helps us to maintain optimal join functions for athletic performance. So I used to do stretching exercises as a part my sports therapy and I had compared the finishing time with running after stretching and without stretching, I didn't notice any significant difference. It could be that stretching forced me into a slow start, but within minutes I am able to compensate it by speeding up and finished in the same time.

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There is some question whether static stretching of less than 30-40 seconds per muscle will affect your performance at all. There is also some question whether the effect of longer stretching does wear off. That said, if I were running a marathon, I'd be much less concerned than if I were running a mile.

It sounds like you found something that works, which is the most important thing.

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