Flexibility is the range of motion, while stretching is the exercise that leads to increased flexibility. You may not find stretching to be your favourite part of the workout but it is just as important as staying active through cardio and strength exercises. Stretching can help improve flexibility, reduce tightness and reduce risk of injury. Without involving stretching into your workouts, muscles and joints can become too tight, which can lead to pains and strains.
Below are 5 simple and easy stretches that can help you improve your flexibility. These alone will not prevent injuries, but this is a start.
*These all can be done standing or sitting. Please take into consideration your balance, fitness level and comfort level with these stretches before starting. Don’t forget to breathe! These are meant to help you relax and help you accomplish daily tasks with more ease. If you are in pain, please stop. If it persists, please consult your doctor.
The neck is a sensitive area, which also means that it is important to stretch and take care of it. Start with slowly bringing one ear down to your shoulder, then rounding your chin the front and then to the other shoulder. Avoid bringing your shoulder up to your ear, but allow your neck to fall, bringing your ear to your shoulder. Do not roll your head backwards; keep your chin at the front. If you need more of a stretch, bring the opposite hand down and out to your side (i.e. right ear to right shoulder, with your left hand out to the side). This can be done as many times as you are comfortable, holding at each side for 10-15 seconds.
The back/torso area is so important as it is connected to the rest of your body. Sitting up tall at the edge of your chair, take one hand and gently place it on the outside of your opposite thigh. Your other hand can be behind your back or holding onto the side of the chair. Gently turn or twist to that side, feeling a slight stretch. This should not be painful or cause any discomfort. This can be held for 20-30 seconds on either side, repeating as necessary.
This stretch can be done with or without an exercise band or towel. If you are doing this stretch for the first time, consider sitting sideways on a chair and using an exercise band. Grab the band with one hand, placing it behind your back. Then, grab the other end of the band with your open hand. To make this more difficult, you can raise your arms up towards your shoulders, and/or bring your hands closer together while still holding onto the band. This stretch can be held for 20-30 seconds and repeated multiple times.
If you are standing, please make sure you are balanced, perhaps even holding onto a chair. If sitting, begin on the edge of your chair, bending one leg with your foot flat on the floor, and your other leg out straight with your heel on the floor and toes pointed up. This may be enough of a stretch for you, hold it there. If you’re looking for a deeper stretch, hinge at your hips, leaning forward over your straight leg. You can hold this for 20-30 seconds, multiple times per leg.
Last one! While you sit on the edge of your chair, sit up tall and take a deep breath in. As you roll down vertebra by vertebra, breath out. Slowly roll down the front with your hands following along from your thighs, to your knees, shins and toes. Once at the bottom, take a breath in and out as you slowly roll back up one vertebra at a time again. Repeat this as many times as you would like.
Until next time,
Keep living the Kait Life!