Each morning when you wake up from a long night’s sleep, your body goes into an involuntary sequence of stretches. Perhaps you point your toes down toward the end of the bed, arch your back or reach your arms above your head. Maybe you roll your head from side to side or your shoulders from front to back. Without even thinking about it, your body knows that after being in the same position for hours, it needs to stretch in order to move.
Yet, as the day goes on, and as we often sit at a desk for several hours, we neglect to make a conscious effort to stretch our bodies. We have become so complacent about stretching that when it comes to physical exercise, we often neglect to stretch afterward, which, according to several studies, is important to do.
In fact, research has found that performing static stretching after a workout can improve range of motion around your joints. Stretching has also been found to improve blood circulation, boost oxygen levels, help deliver nutrients to your muscles, as well as relieve stress and tension.
On the flip side, if you don’t make stretching part of your daily activities, you could experience decreased flexibility in the joints that may increase your likelihood of developing arthritis and having poor balance, which could result in injury.
Now that you know how important stretching is, here are six stretches you should do every day:
1. Ground quadricep stretch
Stretching your quadriceps is very important, especially for runners. The ground quadricep stretch is a simple, yet effective way to do just that.
Simply lay down on your left side with left arm extended for balance. Then, take your right arm and grab your right foot, bending your knee and pulling your foot toward your lower glute. Hold it for 15-30 seconds, then switch to your other side.
2. Simple hamstring stretch
The hamstring is located in the back of your thigh and is the muscle group responsible for bending or flexing your knee. Stretching your hamstrings can help improve your walking and running stride as well as alleviate lower back pain.
This simple hamstring stretch will help engage those muscles in a way that will not put added stress.
All you need to do is sit on the ground with both legs extended outward, toes pointed up. Slowly bending at the waist as far as possible while keeping your knees straight. Hold this for 15-30 seconds, and repeat the motion tree times.
3. Calf raises
Your calf is your speed-up and slow-down muscle. If you want to sprint up a hill, it is activated by keeping you on your toes and light on your feet. And when you need to slow down or stop, it is again called into action so that you don’t fall flat on your face. So, keeping this muscle in tip-top shape is extremely important.
However, stretching it is not all that difficult. All you need is to do some simple calf raises.
Just stand on a flat surface and lift up to your toes. Do this motion 15-20 times, and repeat the set three times. You can make it more challenging by doing the same motion on a step, essentially removing the ground surface below your heel.
4. Seated spinal twist (glutes)
Even when you’re sitting still, your backside is working hard to keep you upright. Sitting for hours at a time can lead to tightness in your glute muscles. When this happens, it can lead to more serious conditions like problems with your IT band, that can in turn lead to knee injuries or lower back pain.
The spinal twist is a great way to stretch out your glutes, and you can do it while sitting, which is also a plus.
Simply sit with your legs extended straight in front of you. Then bend your right knee, hugging it with your left arm, pulling your right heel close to your left sit-bone. This is all done with your right hand being paced securely on the ground behind you to allow for that stretch in your right glute to engage.
Hold that for 15-30 seconds, then switch to the other side.
5. Kneeling hip-flexor (groin)
When you sit, your hips are in a “flexed” position, keeping the surrounding muscles in a shortened state. This is why it is so important to stretch your hip flexors and groin. One way to do this is with the kneeling hip-flexor stretch.
First, kneel down with your back straight up, and your backside off the ground. Then, while keeping your right knee on the ground, lift your left knee up and plant your left foot on the ground, creating a 90 degree angle with your knee.
While in this position, squeeze your glutes, engaging the hip flexor and groin while driving your hip forward and knee to the ground. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, repeating on the left side.
*Keep in mind that this is a hip/groin stretch. When engaging the muscles, don’t move your knee forward. Simply engage the muscles.
6. Chest Opener
Muscles surrounding your heart can also tense up, which is why it is so important to make sure you stretch those out. Doing so can help open and stretch the chest and even stimulate the lung to deliver essential air throughout the body. The chest opener is a great and simple way to do just that.
What you need to do is stand facing a corner of a room, about 12-18 inches away, staggering your feet behind you. Then, extend your arms out to your sides, bending them at the elbow with your forearms pointing up, palms facing out pressing against each wall. Slowly lean inward, pushing your chest toward the wall until you feel your chest stretch. Hold that position for 15-30 seconds, keeping your forearms and hands still. Repeat three times.