7 Stretches to Keep You Flexible and Fit

Stretching has many positive benefits including better blood circulation, increased range of motion and improved muscular coordination. It’s often overlooked because the results are not as visible as aerobic exercise or weight training but good flexibility can decrease your risk of injury by helping your joints move through their full range of motion. To reap the benefits of stretching, you have to stretch smart and modify or adjust to suit your particular needs. You should hold a stretch until the first sensation of resistance, then breath your way through it. The following seven stretches can help to improve performance and overall physical wellness:

1.    Downward Dog

Downward Dog is a pose commonly used in yoga and it resembles that of an upside down letter V. Start with your body inverted by touching your hands to the ground and walking them outward while your feet stay in place, hips-width apart and legs remain parallel to each other. The benefits of downward facing dog include elongating the cervical spine, stretching shoulders, calves, hamstrings and feet.

2.    Rotational Stretches

Simple rotational stretches are terrific for your thoracic spine. When the thoracic spine becomes tight throughout the day, it can cause problems up and down the chain of the body. Start by sitting with both legs extended out in front of you, with flexed feet. Bend one leg so your knee is propped up. Twist and rotate the upper body toward the knee, resting the opposite arm on the knee. Hold, breathe and repeat on the other side.  

3.    Triceps Stretch

The triceps are the muscles on the back of the upper arm. Everyday activities can cause wear and tear on the triceps muscles so it is important to keep them flexible. To stretch the triceps simply place one both arms bent behind the head and lightly grab on to one elbow and gently stretch, then repeat on the other side.

4.    Quadriceps Stretch

The quads are located on the front of the thigh and should be stretched after running or copious amounts of walking. In order to stretch your quads, stand up straight and grab your left foot with your left hand and stretch toward the rear end, keeping your hips level and knees in line with each other. Hold this position until resistance is felt, breathe through it and repeat on the other side.

5.    Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose is often practiced in yoga and is a great hip opener. Start on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Bring your right knee forward until it touches your right wrist, keeping your right thigh parallel to the side of the mat. Slowly inch your right shin and foot toward the midline of your body, until your foot is directly below your left hip. Straighten your left leg toward the back of your mat and make sure to keep it in line with the body. To maximize effects of this pose and protect the lower back, you’ll need to keep your hips level at all times.  This pose stretches the hip joints in adduction and flexion. It also creates greater flexibility in the gluteal muscles and deep rotator muscles of the hip—both essential for maximum physical performance.

6.    Reclined Hamstring Stretch

Stretching your hamstrings is perfect for those who have a job that requires a lot of sitting. To stretch the hamstring, lie on your back with both legs out in front. Keep one leg planted on the floor and bend the other leg at the knee toward the upper body while gently grabbing the shin. Keep both hips on the floor and square and make sure your shoulders stay flat on the ground. Hold, breathe and repeat on the other leg. 

7.    Wrist Stretch

It’s important to release the wrists with stretches after standing on your hands or performing actions that demand repeated flexion of the wrists including typing all day or frequently practicing yoga. To start, reach your right hand out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Flex your wrists back, fingers pointed to the ground and palm facing forward. Spreading your fingers wide, gently pull back on your thumb and hold for a few breaths. Next, hold each of the other fingers for a few breaths.  Repeat on the other hand.

Active stretches not only stretch muscles and tissue, but also activate them to prepare for physical action. Make an appointment with us today at www.carolinaactivehealth.com and let us help you get on the fast track to physical wellness!