Should you bother with pre-work stretching programs?

Pre-work stretching programs are commonplace in some industries, particularly in mining. It is engrained in the mining industry that these programs will prevent workplace injuries. From experience in other industries, pre-work stretching programs aren’t as popular and quite often they are seen as a waste of time amongst management and staff. If your company does have a program up and running, you will be happy to know that the evidence does suggest that they are most definitely worthwhile.

One of the big pushbacks on stretching programs from workers and managers that I regularly see is they can be time-consuming and employees would prefer just to get on with their work. A recent study on factory workers by Aje et al (2018) identified that an 8-minute stretching program that was implemented significantly reduced the rate of injuries. This shows that these programs don’t have to take a huge time commitment to get effective results. A small-time commitment and a reduction in injuries meant a net cost saving for the employer.

As well as the cost-saving nature of reduced workers’ compensation claims, stretching programs can have various other benefits to both workers and employers. A review by Soares et al (2019) found that workplace exercise intervention programs can reduce absenteeism, time-off requests, sickness absence, and improved subjective workability. This review also further backed up the cost-saving nature of workplace preventative exercise programs.

Like any preventative exercise program, a workplace stretching program should be designed specifically to match the requirements of the workers as well as the job role. That means a generic stretching program may not necessarily be effective in reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Absolute Balance’s Accredited Exercise Physiologists are experts in tailoring targeted preventative exercise programs including stretching programs for organisations throughout Australia. For more information on how we can help, contact aaron@absolutebalance.com.au for more information.

Aaron McErlaine (BSc – ExHealth, BSc – ExRehab, Dip WHS, Cert IV TAE)
Health & Injury Prevention Services Manager (AEP) (ESSAM)

References:

Aje O, Smith-Campbell B, & Bett C (2018) Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in Factory Workers: Evaluating a New Eight Minute Stretching Program. Workplace Health & Safety 66(7): 243-347.

Soares C, Pereira B, Gomes M, et. al. (2019) Preventive factors against work-related musculoskeletal disorders: narrative review. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Trabalho 17(3): 415-430.