The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. Your body needs at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity minimum five days per week to work efficiently. Though people pay attention on various exercises, it is often noted that many tend to overlook the benefits of stretching.
Stretching activities should be an important part of any exercise or rehabilitation program as they help warm the body up prior to activity thus decreasing the risk of injury as well as muscle soreness. It boosts performance as a flexible muscle is far more resistant to injury than an inflexible one. Stretching also improves balance and coordination.
Mentioned below are few basic stretching exercises that should be a regular part of your fitness program.
• Calf stretch: Stand at arm’s length from a wall or a piece of sturdy exercise equipment. Place your right foot behind your left foot and then slowly bend your left leg forward, keeping your right knee straight and your right heel on the floor. Now, hold your back straight and your hips forward. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and then switch legs and repeat.
• 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.
• Shoulder stretch: To keep your shoulders flexible bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm, either above or below the elbow. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and then switch arms and repeat the process.
• Neck stretch: Neck stretches are important for people whose work requires them to sit in one position for longer hours. To increase flexibility of your neck muscles bend your head forward and slightly to the right. Now, with your right hand, gently pull your head downward. You’ll feel a nice, easy stretch along the back left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
• Upper back stretch: Stretching the muscles in your upper back can promote good posture. To stretch these muscles stand in a relaxed position with your arms extended in front of you, parallel to the floor. Pull your shoulder blades together behind you, bending your arms slightly at the elbows. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and then repeat the process a few times.
Always remember to:
• Do some light warm up exercises for 5-10 minutes and then you should stretch.
• Keep stretching gentle and not to overdo it.
• Hold a stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat
If you have a problem area or the stretch is particularly helpful for pain or discomfort, you may benefit from repeating the stretch. If you have any health conditions or injuries, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about which stretches are right for you.
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