Doing stretches is boring and you don’t need to do it. If it were really good for you, everyone would be doing it, right?”
This way of thinking is prevalent in society, but when you see people losing range of motion and the ability to stand up straight, you have to wonder if doing stretches is really just for teens and athletes. (Hint, it’s not).
The average person doesn’t need the flexibility of a contortionist, but the average person does need to stretch certain areas of the body that often get tight from modern living. Tight muscles lead to changes in their length-tension relationship. To simplify, your muscles at rest remain in a shortened position, thereby pulling their opposite muscles into a weak and lengthened position. Next thing you know, you’re walking with a stoop and you cannot touch your toes.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Most people spend large amounts of their day seated, often at a desk or in a vehicle. This puts hips in a forward flexed position and causes hip flexors to get tight. This can be fixed with a slightly awkward stretch. Kneel with your right knee up like you’re going to propose. Start with your right knee aligned over your foot. While keeping your back straight and your tailbone tucked, shift your weight forward. This brings your torso forward and stretches your left hip flexors. You should feel the stretch in the front of your left thigh. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then switch legs to repeat on the right side.
A common problem many people have and are not aware of is a tendency to bring the shoulders forward to reach items like keyboards instead of positioning their bodies so they can keep their shoulders retracted. This frequent slumping of the shoulders leads to tight pectoral muscles. Find a doorway to address this issue.
Stand in the doorway and hold up your left arm with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your palm and forearm against the door frame or turn around if your left arm is on the side of the doorway with hinges. Step your right foot forward and your left back into a staggered stance for good balance. Shift your weight forward onto your right foot until you begin to feel a stretch near your left shoulder. Then, twist your torso to the right slowly until you feel you’ve reached your stretch limit. Hold that position for 30 seconds. Turn around and repeat with your right arm.
Another common area for tension is the trapezius. Many people have iron cables where their traps used to be. This tension often leads to neck pain and sometimes headaches. Release the tension by lifting your shoulders as high as you can toward your ears. Really feel them stretching up as high as they can go. Hold for about 5 seconds and release. Let your shoulders drop back down. Repeat the shrugs a few times. Do this a couple of times throughout the day.
Maintain flexibility in your hamstrings so that you’ll never need to ask your kid to tie your shoes for you. One of the simplest ways to stretch your hamstrings is to sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you. With your legs straight, first pull your toes toward yourself. If your hamstrings are really tight, this might already feel like a stretch.
Next, reach for your toes and bend forward slowly. Watch for rounding of the back. This isn’t gym class, and it isn’t about how far you can touch. It’s about how much you can stretch your hamstrings, so keep your spine straight and think of folding forward instead.
Hold a comfortable but challenging position for 30 seconds before slowly sitting back up tall.
Final Thoughts on Stretches
These stretches are meant to address common areas of tightness and posture issues. They might not work to eliminate all your areas of muscle tension. But, doing these stretches daily could make a significant difference in how well you can move around as well as sit and stand up straight. They might also help prevent problems that could lead to joint pain, decreased mobility, muscle weakness, and poor body alignment. Consider asking your chiropractor for more stretches or alternatives that could better suit your needs.