Keeping muscles limber is important for healthy movement, avoiding injury, and aging well. Here’s how to get started today.
The call to stretch is about far more than getting limber enough to touch your toes. “Stretching can improve hip, pelvic, neck, and shoulder movement to support functional, everyday movement of your body,” says Brian Dorfman, a kinesiologist and owner of Dorfman Kinesiology in Morro Bay, California. In other words: Stretching is one part of staying physically active that helps you age well.
Aging is characterized by having rigid muscle tissue and compressed joints, Dorfman says. Stretching, on the other hand, helps create more elasticity in muscles and maintain extension in joints to promote your ability to move and be active well into your later years.
A regular stretching routine improves flexibility, helping you maintain full range of motion and full use of the muscles, according to Harvard Medical School. Tight muscles that are limited in mobility are also more prone to pain, strains, and injury.
Get started with these 5 stretches today
Depending on how you use your body, your body type, and several other factors, different stretches might feel better than others or be more helpful to you. These stretches are a good place to start that target some of the major muscle groups and relieve some of the most common aches and pains.
1. Stretch hamstrings with the “Hello Hammies”
Branningan recommends this stretch to target the muscles that run down the backs of the legs.
How to Lay down on the ground. Bend one knee in toward your chest and wrap a strap, resistance band, or towel around the arch of one foot, grabbing both ends of the prop. Bend your knee to 90 degrees, then straighten your leg, hold for two seconds, and bend at the knee. Repeat for as long as feels good. Switch legs.
2. Stretch your lower back with the “Twist & Dipper”
When your lower back is aching while sitting at a computer all day, take a moment to try this spine-massaging stretch from Branningan.
How to Sit tall in a chair and place hands behind your head with elbows out wide. Twist to one side and drop elbow down to your knee. Hold for 2 seconds. Repeat for as long as feels good. Switch sides.
3. Try shin crossovers to loosen up hips
Take the pressure off your hips and address any muscle tightness with this simple seated stretch.
How to Sitting down, cross one shin over the opposite thigh. Move your torso forward, which will deepen the stretch. Hold for as long as feels good. Switch sides.
4. Roll your arch for foot health
All you need is a ball to ease foot pain, says Dorfman. The instructions, below, are geared toward a standing stretch, but you can also do this sitting down at a desk or while watching TV.
How to Using a lacrosse or tennis ball, stand near a wall and place your hand on the wall for balance. Place one foot on top of the ball and press down. (Shift more of your weight onto the ball for a deeper stretch.) Roll the ball to different points on your sole (arch, ball, heel), focusing on the places where you need to release tension the most. Switch and roll the other foot.
5. Try this easy sitting neck stretch
Elongating your neck will help relieve neck pain, says Dorfman. Do this one when you start to feel tension in your neck while doing computer work. When the stretch is over, you should feel like you can sit up taller.
How to Sit in a chair. Grab the bottom of the chair with your left hand and lean to the right side, keeping your shoulder down in order to elongate your neck. Hold for several seconds. Switch sides.