Here is a post that I recently wrote for Every Thing Mom. Hope you enjoy it!
Snap, crackle, pop…..no I am not going to talk about breakfast cereal but perhaps the noises you might hear when you get out of bed in the morning. So many people wake up stiff, achy, and sore. I have great news! Some, if not a lot, of your pain could be alleviated if you commit some time to stretching exercises.
We are all strapped for time and by the end of your workout you need to jet home or go to work and you bypass the stretching exercises. Mistake…big mistake! Feeling the stiff muscles, soreness and tight body the next day is a good reminder that stretching exercises are as vital to your exercise program as the exercise itself.
The benefits to incorporating stretching exercises into your routine:
- It makes muscles longer and leaner, who doesn’t want that??? This gives them better range of motion and better flexibility, which will equal a better workout!!!
- Your muscles won’t feel as sore after a hard workout
- It improves circulation
- It reduces stress and muscle tension
- It reduces your risk of injury
A few things to keep in mind with stretching exercises:
- Never bounce. Our high school gym teachers were wrong! Bouncing increases the risk to tears and strains.
- Use static stretching.
- Stretching should never, ever be painful. Pushing a muscle beyond the point of comfort will cause it to rebel and become less flexible. Instead, go to the point where you feel a gentle stretch, take a few breaths and let your muscle settle in, then go a little deeper and take a few more breaths.
- Each static stretch should last at least 20 to 30 seconds to get the most out of it (focus on how it’s feeling and you won’t get bored).
- Relaxation is also a part of a stretching exercises, so breathe and relax
- This one is sad but true – the older we get, it becomes more important for us to stretch. But those of you in your 20s should keep this in mind: if you stretch a lot now, you will be in far better shape in a couple of decades. Consider stretching an investment in your future health, just as college was an investment in your future career.
It’s great to stretch throughout the day, especially when you’ve been sitting or standing for long periods of time. Stretching exercises will reward you with more fluid, mobile movements and less morning stiffness.
Mobility is your independence. Be the active, healthy person you want to be!!
Here are 6 stretching exercises that will be helpful for any age, any fitness level and can be done anywhere:
1. Cross shoulder stretch
Stand up straight, with knees slightly bent. Place feet hip distance apart. Make sure toes are pointing forward. Keep shoulders even as you complete this stretch. Bend right arm at elbow joint, extend arm across chest. Place left hand on the right elbow to gently support the arm during this stretch. Feel the stretch in your right arm and shoulder. Inhale (breathe in) through your nose, and exhale (breathe out) through your mouth, as you complete this stretch. Hold the stretch. Repeat this stretch on opposite side, using right hand to stretch left arm and shoulder.
2. Triceps stretch
Stand up straight, with knees slightly bent. Place your feet hip distance apart. Make sure toes are pointing forward. Keep shoulders even as you complete this stretch. Bend right arm at elbow joint, lift arm next to your head. Position right fingers so they touch the shoulder blade area. Place left arm across top of head, and place left hand on the right elbow to gently support the arm during this stretch. Feel the stretch in your right triceps. Inhale (breathe in) through your nose, and exhale (breathe out) through your mouth, as you complete this stretch. Hold stretch. Repeat this stretch on the opposite side, using right hand to stretch left triceps.
3. Chest Stretch
Stand up straight, with knees slightly bent. Place your feet hip distance apart. Make sure toes are pointing forward. Keep shoulders even as you complete this stretch. Place arms behind your back. Clasp your hands together, extending your arms behind your back and hold this position. Feel the stretch in your chest. Inhale (breathe in) through your nose, and exhale (breathe out) through your mouth, as you complete this stretch. Hold stretch.
4. Quadriceps stretch
Stand facing a wall, about 1 foot away from it. Keep yourself up by putting your right hand against the wall. Raise your left leg behind you and grab your foot with your left hand. Pull your heel slightly up toward your bottom, stretching the muscles in the front of your left thigh for 20 seconds. Keep your thighs close together to keep your knee aligned and stretch effective. Repeat the stretch with your right leg.
5. Hamstring stretch
Lie down with your back flat on the floor, with both of your knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor, about 6 inches apart. Bend your right knee up to your chest and hold onto your right thigh with both hands placed behind your knee. Slowly straighten your right leg, feeling slight stretching in the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and then repeat the stretch with your left leg.
6. Calf stretch
Stand facing a wall, about 2 feet away from it. Keeping your heels flat and your back straight, lean forward and press your hands and forehead to the wall. Make sure your knee does not move forward of your ankle. Do this slowly. You should feel stretching in the muscles in the back of your lower legs, above your heels. If you need a bigger stretch, move your back farther away from the wall. Hold this position for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat!
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