Summary Post-exercise stretching has been performed as a recovery modality for many decades, if not centuries and beyond, and the current body of research demonstrates that it may have several beneficial effects on recovery. Introduction The practice of stretching after exercise e. The common reasons for stretching after exercise are to: Reduce muscle soreness Reduce muscle stiffness i.
What is Stretching? Does Stretching Enhance Recovery? As previously mentioned, the primary objectives of post-exercise stretching to enhance recovery are two-fold: Reduce muscle soreness Reduce muscle stiffness i.
Flexibility First: A Fitness Approach For Life. Volume 1.: Stretching Just The Facts
Blood Flow During static stretching, blood flow, capillary region oxygenation, and the velocity of red blood cells to the muscle appear to decrease . Muscle Soreness Reducing muscle soreness after exercise is a cornerstone objective of enhancing recovery. Parasympathetic Modulation Things here can get a little complicated, so we will keep it as quick and as straightforward as possible. Range of Motion Flexibility Flexibility is usually referred to as the range of motion around a joint, or a series of joints e.
Issues with the Current Research on Stretching One key issue surrounding virtually all stretching-based research, is the current ability to appropriately quantify the intensity of stretching — i. Future Research Having discussed the potential limitations of stretching and its effects on recovery, in addition to highlighting a series of issues regarding the modality, the following topics are advisable for future research: Direct comparisons between stretching and other recovery modalities and their abilities to improve flexibility static stretching vs.
A metric for quantifying i. Examine the mechanical changes to the muscle-tendon complex imposed by static stretching. Changes in PSNS activity 24, 36, 48, and 96 hours after exercise and stretching. Take Home Messages The following provides clinical information, abstracted from this review, which can be applied to practical environments: Post-exercise stretching appears to have a little effect on reducing muscle soreness days after exercise. Static stretching increases PSNS activity, which may, therefore, improve relaxation.
Static stretching appears to be an effective means for improving flexibility by causing changes to both the mechanical properties of the muscle-tendon unit and decreasing neural excitability. Static stretching initially reduces blood flow, capillary region oxygenation, and the velocity of red blood cells to the muscle, but this is significantly increased after the stretch. What Now?
Prevention of muscular distress after exercise. Research Quarterly ;— Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews , Issue 7. Stretching for Functional Flexibility. The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther 54—61, Effect of stretching duration on active and passive range of motion in the lower extremity. Br J Sports Med —, Stretching and its effects on recovery: a review. Strength Cond J.
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PNF, dynamic or static stretching – which is best for athletes?
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Acute effects of stretching exercise on the heart rate variability in subjects with low flexibility levels. J Strength Cond Res 25 6 : —, J Nurs Scholarsh. Fletcher, N. Patel, L. Elvidge, D. Lloyd, S. Chowdhary and J. The influence of small fibre muscle mechanoreceptors on the cardiac vagus in humans. J Physiol Stretching increases heart rate variability in healthy athletes complaining about limited muscular flexibility.
Clin Auton Res 14 : 15— Therapeutic Exercise Foundations and Techniques. Philadelphia, PA: F. Davis, Phys Ther — Clin Orthop — Clin Physiol Funct Imaging — Effect of frequency of static stretching on flexibility, hamstring tightness and electromyographic activity. The effect of warm-up, static stretching and dynamic stretching on hamstring flexibility in previously injured subjects.
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders , African Journal of Biomedical Research, Vol. The acute benefits and risks of passive stretching to the point of pain. Eur J Appl Physiol. Effect of stretching on hamstring muscle compliance. J Rehabil Med. Jan ;41 1 Stretching exercises: effect on passive extensibility and stiffness in short hamstrings of healthy subjects. These data suggest that regular yoga practice is just as effective as stretching—strengthening exercises in improving functional fitness.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine functional benefits of yoga in comparison with stretching—strengthening exercises in sedentary, healthy, community-dwelling older adults. These findings have clinical implications as yoga is a more amenable form of exercise than strengthening exercises as it requires minimal equipment and can be adapted for individuals with lower levels of functioning or disabilities.
Aging is associated with increased functional limitations 1 , loss of independence, and reduced quality of life 2. The incidence of functional limitations and disability increases with age and chronic disease, and for many decades, researchers have been testing the efficacy of physical activity—based interventions for enhancing these functions in older adults.
Although regular physical activity has been demonstrated to be critical for the promotion of health and function as people age, persons older than 50 years of age represent the most sedentary segment of the adult population. However, only The use of yoga and other complementary and alternative therapies is becoming increasingly popular, especially among older adult populations who use these therapies for aging-related chronic conditions such as back pain, arthritis, anxiety, depression, and cancer 4—7.
Yoga-based randomized controlled trials RCTs have shown to reduce the fear of falling 8 and improve balance and flexibility outcomes as assessed by the Senior Fitness Tests 9 , including scores on the one-leg stand test, forward-bend flexibility, and chair sit and reach among older adults following a week Iyengar yoga intervention 10 , More recently, Tiedemann and colleagues 12 found significant improvements in balance and mobility following a week Iyengar yoga intervention among community-dwelling older adults.
Single-armed yoga interventions 8 and cross-sectional studies 13 with aging yoga practitioners also demonstrate improvements in strength, flexibility, and balance as measured by the second chair stand, arm curl, balance, and back scratch tests of the Senior Fitness Test battery. In a recent systematic review, Patel and colleagues 14 summarized the yoga functional fitness literature and compared the benefits of yoga with other exercise interventions in older adults.
They concluded that yoga practice may lead to improvements in strength, flexibility, and health-related quality of life. Several limitations were highlighted by the authors, including the need for methodologically sound and well-designed randomized trials, larger sample sizes, and objective measures of functional ability when comparing outcomes across different exercise interventions. There is also a need to examine how Hatha yoga as well as other forms of yoga compare with conventional muscle-strengthening exercises recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC.
The purpose of this RCT was to address these limitations and examine the effects of an 8-week Hatha yoga intervention on objectively assessed functional fitness in comparison with conventional muscle-strengthening exercises. Based on the existing evidence, it was hypothesized that the Hatha yoga group would show similar or improved performance than the stretching—strengthening group, on the standardized functional fitness tests of balance, strength, flexibility, and mobility following the 8-week intervention.
The primary objective of this RCT was to examine cognitive performance, and detailed recruitment procedures have been described elsewhere Basic demographic information age, sex, income, and marital status and all baseline assessments were conducted prior to randomizing the participants by age and sex into the Hatha yoga intervention or stretching—strengthening control group.
Both assessors and participants were blind to group placement at the time of baseline assessments. Figure 1 shows the flow of participants through the study following baseline testing and randomization.
Fitness Myth 3: The Stretching Myth
The yoga intervention was led by certified yoga instructors and designed as a beginner but progressive 8-week program. The supervised group sessions were held three times a week for the 8-week duration and included practice of postures, breathing, and meditative exercises. Yoga mats, belts, and blocks were used to perform the yoga postures as needed by participants with varying functional capacities.
A sample yoga session demonstrating the postures performed in weeks 4—5 is presented in Table 1. Sessions were progressive and exercises became more challenging over the 8-week randomized controlled trial.
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The stretching—strengthening group served as a control to the yoga intervention for the period of 8 weeks. Participants in this group also met on the same days and times, in a separate exercise studio to engage in exercises that met the CDC anaerobic recommendation Each class consisted of a warm up and a cool down, and the participants completed 10—12 repetitions of 8—10 different exercises led by a certified personal trainer. Resistance bands, blocks, and chairs were also used to perform these exercises and modifications eg, bicep curls, tricep extensions, flutter kicks seated in the chair, etc.
A sample stretching—strengthening group session from weeks 4—5 of the intervention is presented in Table 1. Participants in both groups completed exercise logs where they rated their enjoyment and rating of perceived exertion at the end of each class. In addition to the basic demographic information age, sex, marital status, date of birth, income, and education , the following functional fitness tests were completed by all participants at baseline and postintervention.
Participants completed the Senior Fitness Test 9. The tests included 8-Foot Up-and-Go, a test of physical agility and dynamic balance best of two timed trials ; the Arm Curl test, which assesses arm muscle strength endurance, specifically of the biceps number of reps in 30 seconds ; Chair Stand test, which assesses lower body strength number of reps in 30 seconds ; and the Back Scratch and Chair Sit-and-Reach, tests of upper body and lower body flexibility distance in inches between finger tips, and fingertips and toes, respectively.click
Vol. 1 – Assisted Stretching – Just the Facts
To assess balance, we used the Four Square Step Test 20 , a test of dynamic standing balance where the subject steps into 4 squares and is required to step forward, backward, and sideway to the right and left, and the One-leg Stand Test consisting of balancing on one leg left and right , unsupported for up to 30 seconds. Data were analyzed using SPSS statistical software using an intention-to-treat approach.
Prior to all hypothesis testing, independent sample t -tests were conducted to examine whether significant mean differences existed in demographic and physical activity variables among the two groups at baseline. Using a repeated measures multivariate analysis of covariance MANCOVA with baseline means, age, and sex as covariates, we examined whether outcomes changed differentially from baseline to postintervention.
F test statistics and effect sizes are reported for the analyses of covariance. Table 2 presents participant characteristics for demographic factors and group attendance over the 8-week intervention.
The average attendance at the yoga classes was The overall attrition rate was 8. Table 3 shows the intervention effects on the functional fitness outcomes for the yoga intervention and stretching control groups at baseline and postintervention. Age, sex, and baseline means were used as covariates in all analyses. The 8-week Hatha yoga intervention was just as effective as conventional stretching and strengthening exercises in improving functional fitness outcomes among middle-aged and older adults.
Gender differences were observed on strength and flexibility measures across both groups with women demonstrating greater flexibility than men and men demonstrating greater lower and upper body strength. Age was found to be a significant moderator of mobility performance with older participants exhibiting slower scores on mobility tests. Overall, we observed significant time effects for each of the balance, flexibility, strength, and mobility measures, indicating that both groups improved and Hatha yoga was just as effective as the conventional CDC strengthening guidelines in improving these functional fitness outcomes in community-dwelling older adults.
Our results concur with previous findings in the literature where researchers have found similar improvements in balance, mobility, and flexibility measures following yoga interventions. The intervention effect sizes observed in our study ranged from. With the increasing popularity of yoga and larger numbers of older adults adopting alternate modes of physical activity, these findings have significant clinical implications. In fact, for the gait speed test, we observed a mean change of. Poor function has been associated with disability, loss of independence, and reduced quality of life 2.
Yoga may serve as an alternate form of therapy to improve balance, mobility, and strength among older adults and combat age-related functional declines. Replication of these results in larger and more diverse samples may enable researchers and practitioners to establish regular practice of yoga as a proxy for meeting anaerobic CDC guidelines for some older adult populations.
It is important to note that a majority of previous studies have utilized Iyengar yoga protocols to examine functional fitness outcomes. There are many different styles of Hatha yoga characterized by the rate at which postures are performed, environmental temperature, physical intensity, level of difficulty, and emphasis on body alignment and relaxation. In addition, the use of aids eg, blocks and straps enables those of most functional abilities to participate in yoga The adherence to the program was high suggesting that it was well tolerated by the participants, and the sessions were well designed and progressive over the 8-week period.
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No adverse events were reported in either group, which also is attributable to the supervised progressive nature of the exercise groups. Regardless of the type of yoga, all yoga postures require the participants to hold and move between a series of stationary positions that use isometric contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups to create specific body alignments. Much like the CDC anaerobic recommendations, yoga practice involves seated, standing, as well as supine postures that target all major muscle groups. Major classifications of poses are standing, forward and backward bending, twists, hand balancing, inversions, and restoratives Similarly, practice of the tree pose vrikshasana focuses on balance by working one side of the body at a time.
It is expected that practice of these postures over the course of the 8-week intervention is likely to have resulted in the functional gains reported in this study. We acknowledge a number of limitations. Firstly, a majority of the sample was women and primarily high income and Caucasian. Overall, the sample was healthy, and all participants were consented by their physicians to participate in the RCT.
It remains to be determined whether similar adherence to yoga programs and improvements in functional outcomes would be observed among other segments of the population such as ethnic and racial minority groups, low income groups, as well as older adults with lower levels of functioning or poor health. Another limitation is the absence of a follow-up timepoint to examine long-term adherence and sustained effects of yoga practice on functional fitness outcomes. It would also be interesting to examine the progression and perceived mastery of the participants over the course of the intervention and its relationship with the objective outcomes.