Three simple exercises to improve your flexibility
Have you been avoiding exercise because it causes discomfort, don’t have the time or don’t like it? Here’s some good news: Easy, gentle stretching is relatively painless, can be done just about anywhere, and can improve your muscle and joint flexibility so that you can lead an active lifestyle.
“Stretching becomes more important the older we get due to losing flexibility, injuries both old and new, and life weighing us down in the form of gravity,” says Chadd Lin, a certified personal trainer with a B.S. in exercise science. “Taking even just a few minutes to stretch will make a difference.”
It’s a part of life: Aging causes muscles to become shorter and lose their elasticity, which can lead to pain and decreased range of motion in the shoulders, spine and hips. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enabling your muscles to work most effectively.”
It’s important to start slowly, breathe while stretching, and avoid any discomfort. Do the three stretches below two to three days a week and perform each stretch two to five times, holding the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. No stretch should be painful, so modify any exercise to stay within your comfort zone.
1) Elbow Pull
Targets >> The shoulder and upper back
Start by placing one hand behind your head and point the elbow upwards, keeping it as straight as possible. Place the opposite hand on the elbow and pull toward your ear and hold for 20 to 30 seconds, Switch arms and repeat. Do at least two repetitions.
2) Toe Touches
Targets >> The lower back and hamstrings
Start by standing with straight posture. Slowly bend forward from the hips, reaching your hands toward your feet until it is uncomfortable. Grasp your elbows with your hands if that is comfortable; otherwise let your arms dangle. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds with no bouncing. Do at least two repetitions.
3) Knees to Chest
Targets >> The hips and lower back
Start by lying flat on your back on the floor. Bending one leg, use both arms to grasp just below your knee and draw it toward your chest as far as is comfortable. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then release gently. Repeat with your other leg. Do at least two repetitions on both sides.