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A short stretch is just as good

June 16, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange | Special to The Times

Good news for those with short attention spans or those who don't like the feel of stretching: Holding a stretch for significantly less time than is usually recommended is just as effective as holding it for a longer time.

Experts have disagreed over how long a stretch should last for maximum benefit, with recommendations varying from 15 seconds to two minutes. To confirm that it is the total time each day that matters, not the duration of a stretch, researchers at the Medical College of Ohio asked 23 healthy students and staff members to do hamstring stretches twice a day.

The volunteers stretched one leg six times for 10 seconds, with a five-second rest in between, and stretched the other leg twice, holding it for 30 seconds each time. At the end of the day, both groups had accumulated a total stretch time of two minutes. After six weeks of following this routine, measurements by a physical therapist found that the range of motion in both hips had improved equally well.

"Many people don't like the sensation of stretching, and they'll lighten up on the stretch to make it more comfortable," says lead author Daniel J. Cipriani, assistant professor of physical therapy. Short duration stretches are more tolerable, he says, so people are more likely to do them regularly.

This study was published in the May issue of the quarterly Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

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