On Your Health

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Don’t Skip Your Stretches

Stretching, smetching: that’s how many people feel about this simple task. It might not be the most exciting part of working out, but stretching is just as important for a well-rounded fitness routine as strength and cardio work. Incorporating stretching exercises into your routine will help improve flexibility, reduce tightness and make your workouts safer.

Really, everyone needs to stretch on a regular basis, not just when working out, because stretching increases your blood flow and circulation and sends oxygen to your brain for a clearer mind. Stretching can also improve posture and increase your range of motion so you can keep doing your daily activities free of aches and pains.

To get started on the right (properly stretched) foot, we’re sharing the basic stretches everyone should practice. Remember, stretching should feel a bit uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t feel pain.

Upper Body Stretches

Neck Stretch

Girl standing and stretching neck

Begin with your head bent forward and slightly to the right. Using your right hand, gently pull your head downward. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the left side.

Shoulder Stretch

Girl stretching arm across her body

While keeping your left arm straight, bring it across your chest. Grab your left arm with your right hand, either above or below the elbow. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat the stretch.

Back Stretch

Girl stretching her back

With your fingers interlaced and your palms turned out, extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Side Stretch

Girl stretching her side

While standing, place your feet together and put your arms straight over your head. With your hands clasped together, extend your pointer fingers towards the ceiling. Inhale and reach upward. Exhale and bend your upper body to the right. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on the left side.

Lower Body Stretches

Calf Stretch

Girl stretching her calf

Begin by holding onto a wall or piece of exercise equipment at arm’s length away. Move your right foot behind your left foot and slowly bend your left leg forward at an angle. While doing this, your right leg should be straight, your back should be straight and your hips pointed forward. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat on the right side.

Hamstring Stretch

Girl stretching her hamstring

Begin on your knees. From there, outstretch your right leg. Bend at your hips toward your toes, keeping your toes pointed upwards. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on the left side.

Quadriceps Stretch

Girl stretching her quadriceps

While standing, grab your right ankle with your right hand and pull your heel upwards and backward towards your buttock. Hold onto a wall or railing to steady yourself if necessary. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat with the left side.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Girl stretching her hip flexor

Begin with your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle on the ground. Place your left foot forward with a bent knee at a 90-degree angle. Place your right hand on your right hip and lean forward shifting weight onto your left leg. Make sure to keep your back straight and abdominal muscles tight. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat with the left side.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) Stretch

Girl stretching her illotibial band

Begin by standing upright. Cross your left leg over your right ankle and extend your left arm overhead. Reach your outstretched arm to your right side. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat with the left side.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Girl doing a knee to chest stretch

Lie on your back with your heels flat on the floor. Pull your right knee into your chest. You should feel a stretch in your lower back, but don’t overdo it. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat with the left knee.

Why not start incorporating some of these stretches into your life? Your body will feel relaxed, you’ll have a boost of energy and you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of your day!