If you are involved in a stretching program you are probably wondering how long to stretch. If you take the time to stretch will it make a difference? Research into the subject has shown variable results which depend on age, activity level, previous injuries, etc.
How Long to Stretch - what does the researches say?
Results of long term studies with healthy humans between the age 21 and 39 have shown that after 6 weeks, the people who stretch thirty seconds per muscle every day were able to increase their mobility more than the people that stretched fifteen seconds per muscle per day. Changes in mobility amongst those that stretched for fifteen seconds per muscle per day were statistically insignificant. People that stretched sixty seconds per muscle per day increased their range of motion but not significantly more than those that held their stretches for thirty seconds.
Kids - How Long to Stretch
A study done amongst a relatively small sample size of thirteen healthy 13-15 year olds examined the effect of four different stretching protocols. All protocols lasted 60 seconds:
1.one stretch of 60 seconds duration
2.two stretches of 30 second duration
3.four stretches of 15 second duration
4.12 stretches of five second duration
Measurements were made of hip flexion, extension, abduction, knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion.
Results showed that there were no significant differences between the stretching protocols. One 60 second stretch was as effective as 12 five second, four 15 second, or two 30 second stretches. If you have a child in this age group asking how long to stretch, generally, 15-30 seconds is adequate, provided there are no injuries or underlying conditions.
Stretching Seniors -How long to stretch?
A study published in Physical Therapy in 2001 amongst 60 healthy individuals (mean age 84.7) with tight hamstrings compared stretches for the hamstrings held for 15, 30 and 60 seconds over a period of 6 weeks
These results indicate that a stretch of sixty seconds was more effective than one of thirty seconds within this group of older individuals. Previous studies with a younger populations suggest that a sixty second stretch was just as effective as a thirty second stretch. In other words a short stretch is better than no stretch, but 60 seconds is optimal.