These simple movements that will increase your flexibility.
It isn’t a stretch to say experts recommend stretching before playing sports or exercising. But stretching isn’t only for athletes and fitness buffs, and it shouldn’t be reserved for before and after workouts. The truth is limbering up should be a part of your daily routine just as much as healthy eating and a good hygiene. Stretching offers many health benefits, especially as we age.
“Stretching helps to maintain range of motion, flexibility, and good posture and decreases the likelihood of injury during athletic activities,” says Adam Cohen, PT, DPT, a physical therapist with the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital and Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation Services at White Plains Hospital. “Stretching can even help to improve balance and walking quality.”
To truly experience all the benefits, Cohen recommends stretching at least 10 to 15 minutes a day, starting as soon as you wake up. Stretching first thing in the morning can help decrease stiffness after lying in bed all night.
Here are four easy movements/stretches you can do in the morning before you start your day (click the links to see a quick demo):
Lower Trunk Rotations
Gently drop your knees to one side and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat to the opposite side. Perform 10 times.
Single Knee to Chest Stretch
Gently pull one knee towards your chest. Hold for 10 seconds. Perform 5 times with each leg.
Cat Camel Stretch
Begin on hands and knees. Alternate between arching your back (angry cat position) and lowering your stomach toward the ground (camel position). Hold each position for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Child Pose or Prayer Stretch
Begin on hands and knees and slowly lower your buttocks towards your heels until a stretch is felt in the back and/or buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds and perform 3 times.
Cohen says there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind: “Move to the point where you feel a gentle pull in your muscles rather than pain. Taking deep, relaxing breaths while you stretch will help you to relax and stretch a bit further with each repetition. Be sure not to bounce. Bouncing can actually tighten the very muscles you’re trying to stretch. Learning to stretch properly will come with time.”
Above all, don’t begin any exercise program without consulting a physician first (yes, stretching is a form of exercise). And If any stretch causes a sharp pain, don’t continue it.
Adam Cohen is a Physical Therapist with the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital and manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation Services at White Plains Hospital. To make an appointment, please call 914-681-1116.