Sitting, standing, working out or just going about your daily routine… whether your activity level is very high or low, stretching should be a part of your regular routine for healthy muscles and a balanced lifestyle. Although daily stretching is something we all know we ought to do, why is it so many of us fail to be diligent with it? The key to making anything a part of your routine is to simplify it, and then just do it. To make stretching a part of your routine, here is a simplified list of the most effective and efficient stretches for your whole body. These simple moves can be done virtually anywhere, require no additional equipment, and can make a huge difference in your flexibility, energy levels and overall well being when done daily.
- The Flamingo
Your quadriceps are one of the main supporting muscles that affect the balance and strength of your entire upper and lower body. If you are walking, running, driving or working out, your quads need to be stretched. Simply stand on one leg, grab the top of your foot, and pull the bottom of your foot towards your glutes. This is a basic stretch that most people know, but a trick that enhances it is to squeeze your glutes while you hold the “flamingo” posture. Activating your glutes will create a tighter pull between your quads and further stretch your knee tendons, and the smaller muscles around your quads and knee.
2. Toe touch/forward fold
For the daily commuter or frequent traveler, it is important to stretch regularly to maintain a proper blood flow. Sitting at a desk all day, driving for long road trips or taking lengthy flights calls for extra attention to your hamstrings. Because they have gone a long time supporting your body weight, but have not been properly worked or stretched, a toe touch stretch, also referred to as the forward fold in yoga, is a great way to flex your hamstring muscles, and your glutes. If you workout or run, this is a necessary stretch to make sure you don’t pull or tear any muscles from your workout and prevent debilitating soreness the next day. Start by standing tall, and “fold” your torso, at the hips, reaching as deep to the floor as you can. If you can touch your toes, great. If not, then reach as far as you can and let yourself hang there for 30-60 seconds. The important thing to remember is to keep your back flat, do not hunch over or arch your back while doing this stretch.
3. Shoulder Stretch
Start by standing tall, and reach your shoulders behind your back, interlacing your fingers. Lean forward at the hips, as if you are doing a toe touch or forward fold. This stretch will target your shoulders, biceps, fingers, chest, and back. It is one of the most efficient stretches for your upper body. If you cannot reach your fingertips, then use a towel or broomstick to grab on to. This can be done any time you are sitting at a desk or standing.
4. The Butterfly
The reason this stretch makes it on the list of daily stretches is because it easy to fit into your daily lounging. If you have a TV show you watch, do work on your laptop, or spend any amount of time scrolling on your phone, then you can perform this stretch while you do so. Simply sit on the floor, and bend your knees outwardly, bringing the bottom of your feet to touch. This will stretch your inner thighs and open up your hips to improve flexibility.
5. Standing Side Bend
The oblique muscles on either side of your torso are a commonly forgotten muscle group that needs daily stretching. This simple stretch can loosen you up and create a stretch from the tips of your fingers, and all the way down your side body. Start by standing straight up, grab one hand with the other, and bend yourself over your head. Gently pull as much as possible to achieve a deeper stretch. This stretch is especially good for your entire core, ribs, and spine.