Acute Stretching Increases Postural Stability in Non-balance Trained Individuals

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Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research




Studies into the relationship between acute stretching and maintenance of postural balance have been inconclusive. It was hypothesized that familiarization with the task and subsequent learning might be involved in the conflicting results. Therefore, this study was to designed determine if a regimen of static stretching exercises after a familiarization period would improve a person's ability to maintain a stabilometer in a neutral position and whether stretching had the same effect on individuals with extensive involvement with balancing tasks. Forty-two college students (21 male, 21 female) and 10 surfers (all male) performed tests on a stabilometer on 2 separate days after 3 days of familiarization. Testing followed either 30 minutes of quiet sitting (nonstretched) or 30 minutes of stretching activities (stretched). Stretching exercises consisted of various assisted and unassisted static stretches of the muscles around the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Improved flexibility after the stretching exercises was demonstrated by significant (p < 0.05) 6.5 ± 2.7 cm (mean ± SD) increase in the sit and reach. Balance time for the students improved significantly by 11.4% (2.0-second increase), but the surfers had no significant change. Thus, stretching improved maintenance of balance perhaps by helping the subjects to eliminate the gross muscle contractions that caused large stabilometer displacements and to replace them with fine muscle contractions that caused little or no stabilometer displacements. However, it appears that experience doing balance tasks supplants any stretching benefit.