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The 30-Second Stretching Rule

It’s common to see runners at the start of a race quickly touching their toes or stretching their quads.  Static stretching, or stretching muscles while the body is at rest, elongates muscles and helps runners improve performance, reduce injuries and recover faster. But how long should you hold a stretch?

Matt Dobler, Physician Assistant with OrthoCarolina and former cross country competitive runner, says that research has shown 30 seconds to be the optimal time to hold a static stretch.  This amount of time allows the muscles to relax and be prepped to work.

Dobler emphasizes that although it can be time intensive to stretch properly, it’s important, especially if you’ve suffered from injuries. Taking the time to stretch properly can help your injury improve quicker.

Below are three other facts about the 30 second rule. 

  1. Increased time, decreased performance: Holding a static stretch longer than 30 seconds before your run can actually decrease you running speed and overall performance.  Dynamic stretching may be a more effective warm-up stretching routine. 
  2. Post run, less clear. The research is less clear on how long to hold a stretch post run. However, Dobler recommends holding each stretch at least 30 seconds after running.
  3. 60 second rule applies if you are over 65.  Research has shown that holding a stretch for a bit longer – 60 seconds as opposed to 30 is important if you are over 65 years old.

Matt Dobler is a Physician Assistant and former athletic trainer with OrthoCarolina Huntersville and Mooresville Offices. He was a competitive cross country runner in college at UNC Charlotte

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