Take a Time Out for Flexibility

While watching your favorite teams compete in March Madness, take a time out during commercial breaks to stretch. Flexibility is an overlooked component of exercise that improves your range of motion, which increases your ability to engage in all different types of physical activity. You do not need to go to yoga to improve your flexibility. The most recent physical activity recommendations suggest stretching as an easy and effective means to increase flexibility.

Follow these simple stretching tips to minimize injury and maximize flexibility benefits:

  • Relax by taking a few deep breaths during stretches.
  • Make smooth/slow movements instead of jerky/quick motions.
  • Stretch until feeling a gentle pull; if you feel any sharp pain or discomfort, you have stretched too far.
  • Hold stretches for a total of 15–30 seconds.

To get started, try these simple stretches as you wait for the basketball games to resume:

  • Forward Bend—When sitting/standing, reach your hands toward your toes. Hold for 15–30 seconds.
  • Wall Push—Stand 12–18 inches away from a wall; lean forward, pushing against the wall with your hands and keeping heels flat on the floor. Hold for 15 seconds; repeat 1–2 times.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch—With both knees on the floor, bring one leg forward placing your foot flat on the floor and your knee at a 90-degree angle. Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your front thigh, near the groin. Keep your torso upright and front knee behind your toes. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each leg.

Visit the American Heart Association for more stretches.


Sources: American Heart Association, Stretches for exercise and flexibility; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Active adults. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Time to S-T-R-E-T-C-H

Cats do it, and it’s good for people, too! Stretching is good anytime, but especially…stretch

  • First thing in the morning—wake up your muscles
  • After sitting or standing—relieve muscle tension and work out the kinks
  • Before exercise—reduce the risk of joint and muscle injury
  • After exercise—prevent muscle shortening and tightening; improve flexibility
  • During or after driving—improve your alertness
  • When you feel tense or stiff—relax your mind, reduce your stress level, and
    promote circulation throughout the body

Remember these guidelines when stretching—focus on slow, smooth movements; remember to breathe; hold a stretch for 8 to 10 seconds; move only as far as you can without experiencing discomfort (stop if you feel pain). Bouncing to stretch farther can cause injury; remember that frequent stretching is more important than trying to stretch so far that it hurts.

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