Stretching to improve your flexibility

    • Brief

    • Regular exercise keeps your body and heart in good shape. Stretching can help you loosen your tight muscles and improve your movements.

      Doing this one day won’t help, but doing this consistently over the length of some months to years will improve your range and flexibility.

    • Why you should stretch

      • Stretching increases blood flow. Moving your muscles increases the amount of blood that goes to your muscles. This is important to keep your muscles nourished and prevent them from getting tired quickly.
      • Stretching increases your movement range. Stretching makes it easier for you to move or move better than you used to. It reduces joint stiffness and prevents your joint from getting injured. This makes your exercise movements more effortless and less painful.
      • Stretching can prevent muscle tears. If your muscles are not sufficiently flexible, they can tear easily. Stretching helps to prepare your muscles for stressful activities.
      • Stretching allows you to develop leaner, more versatile muscles.
    • Where to focus on at the beginning of your stretch

    • Stretch your muscles properly during exercising. Start your exercise session with a warm-up, then proceed to do stretches. You can also stretch in between and after your exercise session, as you begin to cool down.

      You should aim to stretch every day, aiming at the main joints that help you move in the lower part of your body. The important muscles include those in your lower legs (sides and back), neck and lower back too. You can include stretches for your upper shoulders too.

    • Stretching your lower legs

    • First warm up and then try one or more of the following:

      1. Lower leg routine
        • Stand with your feet apart, but firmly planted.
        • Step back with your left leg and place both of your hands on the ground on either side of your right foot, about shoulder-width apart.
        • Lower your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip and leg. Hold for 30 seconds.
        • Slowly straighten your front leg, keeping your hands planted on the floor. Don’t worry if you can’t get your leg completely straight. Hold for 30 seconds.
        • Repeat on the other side.
      2. Downward stretch
        • Start in a high plank with your hands directly under your shoulders.
        • Pressing through your fingers and palms, shift your weight back to bring your butt to the ceiling, so your body's in an inverted V shape.
        • Press your heels toward the ground.
        • The closer they get to the floor, the deeper the calf stretch will be.
        • To stretch the lower part of your calves, bend your knees slightly while you continue to press your heels toward the ground.
      3. Lunging calf stretch
        • Stand facing a wall, at arm's length. You can also just do this with your hands on your hips.
        • Place your hands on the wall for support and step one foot back into a mini lunge, bending your front leg and keeping your back leg straight.
        • Lean into the wall and press your back heel down so it's flat on the ground.
        • The further apart your feet are, the deeper the stretch will be. Try varying this a few times, to find your best position.
        • Repeat on the other side.

      Try these and other stretch exercises  to improve the flexibility and tone of your lower leg muscles.

    • Stretching your upper body

    • After warming up, try one or more of the following:

      1. Chest stretch
        • Stand in the middle of an open door.
        • Hold the sides of the doorframe.
        • Gently lean forward into the doorway until you feel a stretch through the front of the chest and shoulders.
        • Only go as far as is comfortable.
        • Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.
      2. Neck stretch
        • Stretch your neck by nodding deeply and fully in different directions. Allow your chin to move as far as it can towards your chest, and the back of your head goes as far back as it can.
        • Move your head from side to side as if to say "No" a few times.
        • Do each routine for about 5 to 15 seconds. Stop if you feel light-headed or uncomfortable.
      3. Shoulder stretch
        • Stretch your shoulders and arms by holding a towel in one hand over your head and letting it drape down behind your head and back.
        • Grab the other end of the towel with your other hand and gently pull down until you feel a stretch