The Best Stretching Exercises to Do at Home
With the holidays approaching more quickly than we expect, it is important to make sure that you have a fitness plan ready to go, for those days when you overeat and do not feel like exercising. If you do not want to gain the customary five to ten pounds during this season, you are going to need to do your best to actively combat it.
In the holiday hubbub of overeating, spending money you do not have and nursing champagne headaches as big as a bodybuilder’s biceps, fitness tends to be the first thing to go. And if you do carve out fifteen frantic minutes to exercise, it’s all about stair-stepping till your buns burn, waiting on weights and crunching till the cows come home.
As for stretching — say what? Who needs it?
We all do, especially at this time of year. Stretching is a no- cost, fast-acting stress-reliever that improves blood flow, prevents muscle stiffness and can re-energize the tensest mall-crawler or fuzziest party animal.
But lots of people never do it, and that includes the fittest among us. Flexibility is a primary component of overall fitness, along with aerobic capacity and strength.
But as hard as it is to get some people to work out, it’s even harder to get anybody to stretch. Stretching’s “therapeutic” value shouldn’t include ending up in therapy.
If stretching hurts your body or your self-esteem, you’re doing it wrong. Stretching should be smooth and effortless, and it should soothe your battered psyche.
There are two flavors of stretching: static, which means holding a position without moving, and dynamic, which involves moving while you stretch. Static stretching right before exercise can reduce athletic performance, but an ongoing program of static stretching can improve it.
If you have time to stretch only once during a workout, do it afterward. And even if you don’t exercise regularly, a regular stretching routine — shoot for three fifteen minute sessions a week — can improve your mental and physical well-being.
Stretched muscles hold less tension and relax more easily, which makes you feel more relaxed. The stretches which are included here incorporate elements of ballet, yoga, and Pilates.
You can find plenty more stretches like this on the internet, or in any kind of fitness and stretching book. Now to the exercises.
You can use a fit ball, or a chair and the floor, but most of them can be done using any one of these. Remember not to bounce, and hold the stretch for twenty to thirty seconds or until all the tension is gone from the muscle.
Relax as much as you can before you begin to get the most from your stretch. Try the “Corpse Pose,” or Savasana.
Lie on your back. Gently roll your head from side to side a few times, then center it.
Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest to lengthen your neck. Turn your palms face up.
Allow your legs to relax to hip-width apart or more. Flatten your shoulder blades on the floor.
Close your eyes and observe your breath. Scan your body for areas of tension, and either release it or accept it.
Allow your mind to stay focused and alert. If your back hurts, place a rolled-up blanket or cushion under your knees, or put your feet on the floor, knees bent and relaxing in toward each other.
To relieve eyestrain, cover your eyes with a folded washcloth. Go back to the Savasana for a few breaths between exercises and at the end of your session for relaxation-plus.
Because you are going to hold these stretches for twenty to thirty seconds (or until the tension is gone from the muscle you’re stretching), do these just one time each.Your body’s range of motion will determine where you hold your stretch, and don’t be discouraged if you can’t stretch as deeply as you’d like right away.
Keep at it — flexibility shows improvement quickly. Warm up by doing a few minutes of any kind of cardio — running in place, jumping jacks, using a step — before you try these exercises.
Stretches to improve flexibility should focus on your body’s major muscle groups: calf, thigh, hip, lower back, neck, and shoulder. Try to find as many stretches as you can and work each section of your body at a time—you will be amazed how good you feel and how soundly you can sleep once you are done!
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