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Bad stretching take from a good doctor

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

A doctor I respect (and won’t publicly shame) fielded a question about stretching on her podcast… and just butchered the answer with an overconfident regurgitation of stale fitness and physio tropes dressed up as sensible medical advice. 😬

All the doctor’s mistakes derived from the One Stretching Myth to Rule Them All: the notion that flexibility is a pillar of fitness, and stretching is the best path to it. This is especially wrong (on a huge scale) for runners.

Quote converted to graphics: “Flexibility has been researched for over 100 years. Its track record is unimpressive, particularly when viewed in light of other components of physical fitness. Flexibility lacks predictive and concurrent validity value with meaningful health and performance outcomes. Consequently, it should be retired as a major component of fitness.” James Nuzzo, PhD, exercise scientist, journal of Sports Medicine, 2020.

I really do like this doctor and trust her views on other medical topics. And yet, despite her ignorance of flexibility physiology — and likely much else about musculoskeletal medicine, a common limitation — she chose to talk it up anyway. That is surprisingly easy to do when you have no idea what you don’t know! Anyone can screw up like this. The easiest way to avoid it? Stay in your lane! Stick to what you do know, as best you can.

I recently added many new images to my (free) stretch-debunking book, breaking up “text walls” to boost readability. See Quite a Stretch: Stretching science has shown that this extremely popular form of exercise has almost no measurable benefits.