The debate over stretching rages on. Every coach touts stretching as a basic for every exercise activity or sport. Yet studies have found it doesn't decrease injury. Does it help you to perform better?
If You Stretch, Do It RegularlyA regular stretching program has some evidence of improving running speed and not having any bad effects on running performance. But studies of stretching right before an activity, "acute stretching," showed that it can reduce performance, probably due to slightly injuring the muscles.
Don't Stretch Before, Do Stretch After or BetweenThe best time to do a regular stretching program is after exercise or separate from an exercise session, not right before exercising. Dr. Shrier, author of a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine on stretching concludes, "If one stretches, one should stretch after exercise, or at a time not related to exercise."
Warm-ups Rather Than StretchingWhile stretching may not be the best way to start an exercise session, warm-ups are still recommended. Walking at an easy pace is a great start. Mobility warm-ups rather than stretches can also help limber up with less risk of muscle damage.
Mobility Warm-Ups for Walkers
Source: Shrier, Ian MD, PhD. "Does Stretching Improve Performance?: A Systematic and Critical Review of the Literature." Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 14(5):267-273, September 2004.