It's a streeeeeeeeeeeetch...

March 17, 2008

Gina Kolata, the NY Times fitness expert has, over the years, amazed me with her behind the times reporting.

In her recent article on stretching ,she marvels at the lack of evidence to support it by saying:

"The truth is that after dozens of studies and years of debate, no one really knows whether stretching helps, harms, or does anything in particular for performance or injury rates."

Really? I beg to differ. Since years of debate and research have coughed up nada to support stretching for, well, anything, I think we know full well that stretching doesn't do much. This process is, in fact, HOW we know that a thing is useful or useless. And in this case the verdict is 'useless.'

But since Gina has trumpeted the benefits of stretching for years and Pooh-pooh'd people like me who have publicly and loudly stated that stretching  is unnecessary for health/fitness reasons (and perhaps only necessary of you engage in ligament lengthening sports like gymnastics, martial arts or Houdini-type escape feats), she's in too deep to escape.

She can't back out now and actually admit that stretching is and always has been useless. No, no - she must ride the fence in the direction it's going. And in the case of stretching the direction is absolutely nowhere.

But maybe, just maybe after a few more years of research, something will pop. Let's just hope it's not your joints while we wait.

The interesting thing is that fitness pros still insist on stretching even though no one derives any real benefit from it, there's no science to support it and much evidence against it. But like Mark Twain said:

"The truth is easy to kill but a lie well told is immortal."

Charles Kenny, MD an orthopod in Stockbridge MA said the following:

“If stretching was a drug, it would be recalled.”

Now them's fightin' words!

If there is no evidence that stretching prevents injuries, improves performance, enhances joint health or does anything good for that matter why in the world does the American College of Sports Medicine and every other fitness organization promote it? One wonders...

Why do physical therapists promote it? Doctors? Athletic trainers? More wonder.

From the article:

"While the stretching debate goes on, some researchers who used to believe in stretching say they have become disillusioned."

Whoa. Hold on a sec - believe in stretching? Aren't these researchers scientists? (If they're not, why are they doing research?) It's a good thing exercise physiologists don't work for NASA or Boeing or even construct toaster ovens on an assembly line. "No Jane - I believe the wires should be soldered this way."

And why is the debate still going on? Seems to me it should be as dead as a shoe by now. This reminds me of the book 'Who Moved My Cheese?'

And this one kills me:

"Her runners stretched but, Dr. Ingraham said, stretching “did not seem to do what we’d been schooled about all our lives — it did not prevent injuries.”

So for years she saw that stretching did nothing to help her athletes and yet kept doing it? Did the good doctor ever stop to think what might have been causing the injuries in the first place?

I'll quote Mark Twain one more time:

"Be careful reading health books. A misprint just might kill you."

Or hurt you or just waste your time. And in the case of stretching, no misprint at all!