The daily stretch
Bring greater flexibility into your life
Being flexible gives you the freedom to do the things you need and want to do. Daily stretching is a great way to increase flexibility, improve the range of motion in your joints (which also helps balance), increase circulation, relieve stress and forestall the stiffness that otherwise comes with age. It’s also easy to perform at home, at work or while traveling, even for beginners. Start with these stretching essentials:
1. Warm up first. Gently stretch after 10 minutes of a low-intensity exercise, such as walking.
2. Target major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, lower back and shoulders and problem areas. Focus also on any areas of chronic tightness.
3. Keep it pain-free. You should feel tension but not discomfort while you’re stretching. If it hurts, ease up until the pain disappears.
4. Don’t bounce or jerk your muscles. This can tear them and lead to scar tissue as the muscle heals. Scar tissue can tighten mus cles, reduce flexibility and cause pain.
5. Inhale and exhale through the stretches to make them deeper and more effective. Be smart. If you have an injury or chronic condition, ask your health-care provider or physical therapist how to stretch safely.
Get started: Go to www.exerciseismedicine.org/keys.htm and click on “flexibility” for video examples of various stretches. Pick the ones that work for you.