After reviewing research, comments of experts in physical activity and sports and considering my own history, I am going to choose a side on the "to stretch or not to stretch" debate. Actually, it is less definitive. I am taking a side on whether or not stretching is significantly important to prevent injury. It is not.
There has been debate for probably ten years or more on whether or not stretching is helpful or even if it could be harmful The most current research and my opinion belie the common wisdom regarding stretching. Instead consider the following:
Warming up is protective and can simply involve doing leg swings or arm circles or walking. Stretching out a cramp may be helpful, but bouncing is never recommended and static holds that exceed 20 seconds are not necessary and could be harmful. Regardless of length of time, one should never feel pain when stretching.
The best thing to do to prevent injuries is to strength train. The muscles, joints and ligaments become healthy and strong when one follows the ACSM/DHHS/AHA recommendations of twice a week resistance training. This involves lifting weights, or using ones own weight for resistance training. Some fitness centers offer group classes in resistance training. Also I have 8 exercise videos posted on YouTube that are on muscle toning and strength.
Now as a very wise friend told me recently, people who use their bodies on a regular basis, according to physical activity guidelines, no less, are GOING TO pull or strain muscles from time to time. Better to work out now and have a sore muscle from time to time than to not work out and become non ambulatory at age 70.
So do your aerobic exercise, warm up your muscles and limbs and follow a strength training program. When you do stretch keep it short, do not bounce and do not induce pain. [gymnasts and dancers may have different requirements, this is more for runners, swimmers and cyclists and the rest of us]
More about this can be found in a recent USA Today article by Janice Lloyd.