Staying healthy and fit is an everyday adventure. The physical activities you take part in are the core of your fitness routine. While the effort put into maintaining a fit figure and build muscle is incredibly rewarding, the repetitive stress on your body can sometimes cause harm if you forget to prepare your body for intense movement.
Even more sedentary lifestyles can suffer from strain injuries that can be easily avoided. Luckily, there are techniques to help mitigate possible athletic and strain-induced injuries.
Stretching your muscles and tendons in relation to the physical activity you are about to perform is one of the most used practices to prevent injury. Whether you are trying to avoid tennis elbow, tearing your hamstring, or consistent lower back pains from sitting in the office chair, here are five stretches that can help you to stay active and lower the risk of hurting yourself:
Knees to Chest Stretch
Back muscles can be among the hardest to find a good position to stretch. The wide range of use your back muscles are involved in to keep you agile and flexible can make back injuries a serious stopping factor in keeping active. Even in cases where you spend the day working at the computer, lower back stretches can keep you from getting a stiff back and prevent arthritis.
A good stretch to loosen up those back muscles along with your quads and hamstrings is the knees-to-chest stretch. This quick five-step exercise will release the tension in your lower back and increase joint flexibility.
To do this exercise, all you need is a clear space on the floor with a five-foot clearance from furniture and clutter. New users of the knee-to-chest stretch should use only one knee at a time until you are performing the stretch without pain.
First, lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Gently raise your knee up high enough to grasp your lower leg under the knee with both hands. Your fingers should be interlaced. Keep your leg, pelvis, and lower back muscles as relaxed as you can and gently pull your lower leg toward your abdomen. Hold this position for a few seconds. Then return your leg to the floor and repeat the process to the other side.
For full effect, do this stretch 10 or 15 times twice a day. After a few days, you may be ready to perform this exercise on both legs at the same time. With the two-legged method, you should have the same interlaced finger grip but centered between both legs just underneath the knees.
Another great exercise to follow up after a knees-to-chest stretch is the cobra position stretch. This stretch engages your spine, chest, abdominal muscles, and hips to help from the strains of bad posture and increase flexibility in your range of movement. Start with the same amount of space you cleared for the knees-to-chest stretch.
This time lie face down with your hands underneath your shoulders. Extend your arms and push your upper body away from the floor while keeping your pelvis as close to the ground as possible. Hold this possible for ten to twenty seconds. Then rotate only your head in either direction and hold that position for ten or twenty seconds. Afterward, rotate your head in the other direction and hold for another ten to twenty seconds.
This exercise can be advanced to a half cobra stretch once you feel confident that you are gaining fewer benefits from a full cobra stretch.
Hamstring Oblique Stretch
To round off your back warm-up, you can quickly change positions from the cobra stretch to the sitting position. From here, you can hit the last muscles in your back one more time and keep your hamstrings loose.
While in the sitting position, place your legs out in front of you at a ninety-degree angle. Choose a side to start with. Bend the leg on the opposite side you chose toward your other leg so the flat of your foot is perpendicular to your thigh. Reach out with the hand on your chosen side toward your extended leg and touch your foot.
Then reach with your other hand over your head to reach the foot of your extended leg without falling forward. Hold this position for about ten to fifteen seconds. When you finish with the first side, repeat this process but switch sides.
Don’t get up just yet. Now that you’ve worked out the tension along your back and thighs, it’s time to work out your feet some. The only extra piece of equipment you need is a towel.
Extend both legs in front of you. Place the center of the towel around the ball of one of your feet just under the toes. Gently pull on the ends of the towel in each hand while keeping your knee straight. Hold this position for fifteen to thirty seconds. Then slowly release your grip until your foot returns to a resting position. Repeat this for your other foot.
Wrist flexor Stretch
With most of your posture loosened and ready to go, it’s time to lower your chance of arthritis in your wrists. You can perform this while sitting or while standing but you will need to make sure you have three feet of clear space around you.
Once you’re ready, hold your arm straight out in front of you. Don’t bend your elbow and keep your palms face up. Use your other hand to grab ahold of the fingers of your outstretched arm and slowly pull them toward your body until you feel your inner forearm stretch. Hold this position for fifteen seconds. Repeat this about three to five times for each hand.
With these five stretches, you should be warm, loosened up, and ready to take on the day. If you can manage to make them a part of your daily routine, your newfound flexibility will keep you active and healthy for years to come.