You might be ticking off your daily walks and weekly workouts like a champ, but if you’re forgetting to stretch, you’re missing out.
Not only do regular stretch sessions help prepare you for workouts and recover from exercise, they’re also vital for keeping you flexible, mobile, and balanced.
While strength training and cardio exercise help to strengthen and build muscle, stretching allows you to maintain a full range of motion throughout your joints – something you need when chasing after kids and something that becomes vitally important as you get older.
Without adequate stretching, your muscles can become tight, which increases the risk of joint pain and damage.
If you can, stretching daily will have the most benefits, but aim for three to four times a week at a minimum. Don’t jump straight into stretching, either. First, warm up your muscles and ligaments with a dynamic warm-up (think a light jog, star jumps or squats).
It’s also a good idea to adjust your expectations. If you haven’t stretched for a while, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to bend like a gymnast. Instead, take your time and allow for incremental improvements – with consistent stretching, you’ll improve faster than you think.
It’s also important to remember that the goal is to be balanced on both sides of your body, not how far you can stretch. If you’re recently postpartum, pregnant, or recovering from injury, be sure to check in with your health provider before beginning a new exercise or stretch routine.
Stretches to try at home
You will need a resistance band, like the Medifit Active Band, to complete these stretches. Perform each stretch for the specified time and complete three rounds.
Inside Thigh Stretch
Lying on your back with your legs bent, wrap a resistance band around your left foot and hold each end of the strap in your left hand. Flex your left foot and raise your leg straight into the air, keeping your right leg bent and on the floor. On an exhale, gentle stretch your leg out to the left, inhale and return to centre. Repeat 3-5 times then repeat on the opposite side.
Outer Leg Stretch
Remain on your back on the floor with a resistance band wrapped around your left foot. Use both hands to hold each end of the strap. Extend your right leg out long, lift your left leg straight in the air, flexing your foot, and slightly lower your leg towards your right side (do not bring your leg all the way to the floor). Hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat on the opposite side.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place the resistance band underneath your feet, holding one end of the strap in each hand. Keep your arms by your sides and slowly tilt your head to the left, feeling a stretch along your neck. Hold for 10-15 seconds then repeat on the opposite side.
Come to a seated position and place a resistance band around your back, just under your shoulder blades, and hold each end of the strap in your hands. Keep a bend in your elbows, then raise your arms out straight into a V position. Hold for 10-15 seconds.
Lay down on your stomach and place the resistance band around your lower back. Lift your chest so that your stomach no longer touches the floor and use both hands to hold each end of the strap. Tilt your head slightly towards the ceiling. Hold for 8-10 seconds.
By Van Marinos, founder of Community News and expert for Medifit