Flossing Is Bullshit—and While We're at It, So Is Stretching



Readers, I don't know about you, but I was happy to hear last week that flossing is probably bullshit. 

Those weren't the exact words being used. But you could tell that the reporters writing all these articles were practically dying to just come out and say it: Flossing is probably bullshit.

Actually the reporters would have just written, Flossing is bullshit. An editor would have added the "probably" later. Just to sound more balanced. That's editors for you!

Anyway, it turns out there's no compelling reason to floss your teeth. Here are just a few of the many headlines that I saw throughout the week:

Medical Benefits of Dental Floss Unproven (The AP)

Everyone Recommends Flossing – But There's Hardly Any Proof It Works (TheGuardian.com)

Everything You Believed About Flossing Is a Lie (TheWeek.com)

I was hugely relieved to hear this, because I hate flossing and I feel guilty when I don't do it, which is most days, and I'm tired of feeling sheepish at the dentist's office when I'm asked how often I floss.

True, this news has inspired some pushback. Plenty of dentists are saying that we should still floss, because of anecdotal evidence. You know, the kind that medical researchers are always telling us to ignore. Anyway, uh... Here, have some free floss.

The fact remains that, for years now, we've been expected to do this beneficial thing despite the fact that there's no evidence showing any actual benefits to be had. It's just like...

Oh my God. Stretching.

Stretching is the flossing of running. 

That thought hit me, finally, after the third or fourth flossing article I saw.

Muscles are not like rubber bands. Cripes. Just listen to yourself.

The similarities are striking—both are widespread, and widely recommended, practices that few people actually enjoy; most people do it wrong anyway; and there's little to no evidence that either does any good. Both are bullshit.

But, you're saying, I should stretch because muscles are like rubber bands and—

No. Stop right there. Muscles are not like rubber bands. Cripes. Just listen to yourself.

But, you say, being flexible is good.

That may be, in other contexts. But when it comes to running, no, flexibility is not necessarily good.

But, you say, stretching will help me prevent injury.

Really? Says who?

But, you say, it's part of my routine and I like doing it.

Okay! Now we're getting somewhere. If you enjoy stretching, whether you believe it "helps" you or not, then by all means keep doing it. If it works for you, it works. That's my motto.

Otherwise? If you're stretching because you've been made to feel like you should or because you read an article once that compared muscles to rubber bands or because you've seen a thousand stock photos of runners stretching, so you figure, Well, I'd better stretch?

That, friends, is dogmatic. And it's bullshit.

As for me, I haven't stretched regularly for years now. Same with flossing. Do I stretch occasionally, just because I feel like it? Sure. Do I floss occasionally, usually after eating an apple and getting bits of apple skin stuck between my teeth? I do. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

I could go on, but I've got to go drink some water. As you know, we all should have eight glasses a day.