Flexibility is an important part of moving more easily throughout the day. It allows us to bend, walk, reach, climb and stand without pain or injury. However, as time passes, natural muscle and bone flexibility decreases. Stretching is an important way to increase flexibility, enhance balance and improve posture for day-to-day activities. Stretching is important at ANY age. Muscle stiffness can lead to difficulties in movement; difficulties in movement make us more prone to injuring ourselves. Therefore, keeping our muscles limber, flexible and pain-free is the best way to prevent injuries later on.
Although stretching really SHOULD be done every day, most of us don’t even think about stretching on a regular basis. Following are some easy stretches you can do to elongate your muscles and therefore increase your flexibility on a regular basis.
This can be done either standing up or lying on your side. Bend right knee and grasp right ankle with your right hand. If you’re standing, touch a wall with your left hand for support; if you’re lying, lie on your left side with your left arm supporting your body. Bring right ankle in towards buttox until you feel the stretch in your right quadriceps (top of right thigh). Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite leg.
Lying on your back, cross your right leg so that your right ankle is resting on your left knee. Reaching down, use your hands to pull your left thigh up so your foot comes off the ground. You should feel the stretch in your right buttox and hip. Pull left leg in as far as is comfortable, then hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite leg.
Backwards Cat Stretch
Position your body “on all fours” ? hands and knees are on a mat or comfortable surface. Bending both knees, keep your hands positioned out on mat and pull buttox back to rest on ankles. Arms should be reaching out in front of you. This stretch is excellent for the lower back. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Forwards Cat Stretch
This is a great stretch for your abdominal muscles, however do not perform this stretch if you have chronic lower-back pain or other disc problems. Lie face-down on a mat or other comfortable surface. Using your hands, push your upper-body off the floor; your back will curve slightly downwards (i.e. your pelvis will push towards the ground). Hold this stretch at a spot that is comfortable and where you do not feel pain. Think about elongating your stomach. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Back & Shoulder Stretch
Similar to backwards cat stretch, but start from a standing position. Hold on to a sturdy surface, and grasp it with both hands (i.e. a pillar, table, bed post, countertop, etc.). Slowly bend at the hips, keeping legs straight, and push butt back so your head comes down between your arms. Pull your body away from the surface, while still holding on. Feel the pull in your shoulders. If you move slightly from side-to-side, you will also feel this along each side of your back (in the Latissiumus dorsi muscle group). Hold for 30 seconds.
Inner Thigh Stretch
Sitting comfortably, bend both knees and bring the soles of your feet together in front of you. Grasp ankles with your hands, and slowly bring your feet in towards your body, while thinking about pushing your knees down to the floor at the same time. Once you get to a spot where you feel the stretch in your inner thighs (the adductors), hold for 15-30 seconds.
Standing with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, keep left hand on left hip and bring right arm up above the head. Using control, bend your hip slightly to the left so your right arm points to the left over your head. Feel the stretch in your right side (the oblique abdominals) and hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
Bring right arm up above the head and bend your elbow so your right hand is positioned behind your neck. Using your left hand, slowly push back on your right elbow so that your right hand moves a bit further down your neck towards your back. You should feel this stretch in the back of your right upper-arm (the triceps). Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat for left triceps.
Outer Thigh Stretch
Lie on your back on a comfortable surface, with arms straight out to either side. Start with right leg – keeping leg straight, bring your right foot across your body and up towards your left hand. Rest your right foot on the ground at or near your left hand, and hold for 15-30 seconds so that you feel the stretch in the outer thigh (abductor) of your right leg. Repeat for left leg.
Even trying out some of these stretches twice a week will help you feel less stiff, more limber, more balanced, and ultimately more flexible. See how each one feels for you. Bring the stretch to a point where you feel restraint, but not pain. Always feel free to call us if you have any questions!