Getting a good stretch is an important part of your wellness lifestyle. Staying active and stretching regularly helps prevent the loss of mobility, which ensures independence as we age. A tight muscle or even a ligament or tendon can give you trouble with your daily routine.
One way to combat tightened muscles is to stretch on a regular basis – and the best thing about stretching is it’s free, can be done in your own home, on your own schedule, and without any equipment.
The Benefits of Stretching
- Increases blood flow and energy levels
- Reduces low back pain and arthritis
- Helps improve poor posture
- Reduces the risk of falling
- Reduces risk for injury
By supplementing your stretching routine with strength training exercises, you will help balance out weaker muscles with the added benefit of flexibility.
Best Stretches To Improve Flexibility
1. Cross Arm Stretch
You’ll feel this stretch in your shoulder and upper back, and it will help you with upper body flexibility.
- Bring the left arm across the chest.
- Hold the left elbow with your right hand and gently pull your left arm towards your body.
- Hold this stretch for 15 seconds.
- Alternate arms and repeat.
Expert Tip: This stretch can be done either sitting or standing but for better posture and added support for the back, I recommend using a chair.
2. Neck Stretches
Maintaining mobility of the neck is important for posture and activities such as driving.
- Stretch the neck by slowly bringing your chin up then down towards your chest.
- Repeat 5 times.
Expert Tip: If you would like a slightly added stretch, you may use your hand to gently pull your head in the direction of the stretch.
3. Ankle Stretches
Ankle mobility is important for improving balance and strengthening the legs.
- While sitting in a chair, flex your left foot, bringing the toes up and pointing them towards your face.
- Then, point your left foot down and away from your face.
- Point and flex the foot 10 times.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the opposite foot.
Expert Tip: For a little added stretch, an exercise band may be used for this stretch. Place the band underneath the foot and hold the band by the two ends. Keep tension in the band as you perform the stretch.
4. Shoulder Stretches
Shoulder mobility is important in day-to-day activities, such as getting dressed or getting items off a shelf.
- Roll the shoulders forward in a slow, controlled circular motion.
- Repeat this 10 times.
- Roll the shoulders backward in a slow, controlled circular motion.
- Repeat this 10 times.
5. Hamstrings Stretches
Stretching the hamstrings are important in injury prevention and reducing pain in the lower back.
- Sit as tall as you can in a chair with your legs out in front of you, knees straight (but not locked), and feet flexed.
- Inhale. As you exhale, slowly bring the fingers down to the toes.
- Hold this stretch for 15 seconds. Inhale and slowly come back up into starting position.
Expert Tip: For those with very tight hamstrings, you may complete this stretch while seated on a couch. Lift your leg onto the couch and perform the stretch.
6. Calves Stretch
Stretching lengthens the calf muscles, which is important in walking.
- Stand facing a wall with your arms straight in front of you and your hands flat against the wall.
- Bring your left leg forward with the knee bent and your foot flat on the floor.
- Extend your right leg straight back, and place your heel flat on the floor. Don’t bend the back knee.
- Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg.
- Hold for 15-20 seconds.
- Alternate legs and repeat.
Expert Tip: It may take a few attempts to adjust your position for this stretch. Widen the distance between the front and back legs until you have a comfortable stretch without pain.
7. Chest Stretch
Proper stretching can help lengthen chest muscles, which will assist with your posture.
- Extend both arms to the side, palms facing forward.
- Reach back with your hands until you feel a stretch across your chest and in front of your arms.
- Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds.
Expert Tip: If you have a hard time holding your arms up, you can use a wall to assist you. Place your palm flat on a wall and then step forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your chest.
8. Back Stretch
Maintaining mobility of the back is essential for and reducing back pain.
- Sit as tall as you can with both feet planted on the ground, in a chair with arms.
- While holding onto the left chair arm, twist your torso to the left and look over your left shoulder.
- Hold for several breaths.
- Repeat with the right side, holding for several breaths during the stretch.
9. Quadricep Stretches
Stretching the quadriceps is great for reducing knee pain and preventing injuries.
- Stand on one leg, hold onto a chair for support if needed.
- With your left hand, grab your left foot and bring it in straight behind you towards your backside.
- >Hold stretch for 15-20 seconds.
- Stretch the opposite leg and repeat.
Expert Tip: For those who may have trouble reaching their foot, an exercise band may be used to assist in lifting the foot up. Place the band to the front of your ankle and hold the band by its two ends. Keep the band taut as you perform the stretch.
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