Many of us sit all day, managing the world at our fingertips with no more effort than making a few keystrokes. Because of so many conveniences, it takes a conscious effort to maintain a healthy weight, some measure of physical fitness and a level of flexibility that allows us to perform daily tasks without strain or injury.
Stretching exercises can improve posture and are an effective preventative for strained or chronically sore backs — one of the most common complaints among adults.
Spend a few minutes walking in place with gently swinging arms to get the blood flowing before doing the exercises below. All movements should be done slowly, to the point where you feel a gentle, pleasant tension in the muscle being stretched. Hold each position for 15 to 30 seconds. Relax and breathe easily through the nose. Never bounce as you hold a stretch. If you feel pain, stop immediately.
1. Stand comfortably with your hands on your hips, or place both hands on a wall (shoulder's width apart), and step forward with the right foot (about a half-shoulder's width).
2. Bend both knees, keeping feet flat on the floor, and shift weight to your forward foot.
3. Slowly lower hips, until you feel a gentle stretching sensation in the calf muscle and Achilles tendon of the left (rear) leg. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
1. Sit comfortably on the floor with your right leg straight and left leg bent, so the sole of your left foot rests flat against the inside of your right leg.
2. Slowly curl upper body down toward the right knee until you feel a gentle stretching sensation in the right hamstring. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
1. Standing comfortably, lace your fingers behind your back so palms are facing in toward the spine, thumbs pointing down at the ground.
2. Slowly raise your linked hands up toward the ceiling, keeping neck and back relaxed, until you feel a gentle stretching sensation in the front of your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
1. Bend your right arm behind your neck, so right elbow points to the ceiling.
2. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand and pull it gently to the left, until you feel a stretching sensation at the back of your upper right arm. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.
1. Lie on your back with both legs extended straight out.
2. Bend your right knee and clasp it with both hands, then slowly pull knee toward your chest as far is it will comfortably go.
3. Breathe in deeply then exhale, relaxing and pulling knee closer as you breathe out. Repeat this breathing action several times as you hold stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.