When we are stuck inside due to the cold weather-maybe sitting around more than we would like- a daily stretching routine is something that can keep our bodies warm and mobile.
Dot and Jaime from Liberty at Home have put together five tips to keep you moving this winter.
Lack of flexibility is something that can occur as we age due to less mobility and changes in our body’s make-up. It’s important to keep your joints moving. Some of the muscles that can become tight include the muscles in the back of the thighs, called your hamstrings, as well as your calf muscles, hip muscles, and your chest and shoulders.
Sitting can cause these muscle groups to become shortened and less flexible and frequent change in position is ideal for prevention. If you find yourself sitting for long periods of time, make sure to stand up intermittently and walk around if you are able.
Remember to follow the advice of your doctor or health professional when you are walking or standing, and use your assistive device if needed.
- Hamstring stretch – You can stretch your hamstrings simply by just extending your leg fully in a seated position. This is called an active stretch because it stretches the muscles while you are moving. Try to do at least 20 repetitions on each side. This is a safe way to stretch your hamstrings without hurting your spine or hip joint. For a more intense stretch, and to involve your calf muscles, try pulling your toes back toward your head. You will feel a more intense stretch in the back of your hamstrings and calf. You can also perform ankle circles to get those feet moving.
- Hip flexors – These are the muscles in the front of your hips. To stretch your hip flexors, stand in front of your kitchen counter or sink, with feet staggered, one in front of the other. Shift your weight forward as if someone was pulling you by your belt buckle, bending your front knee and keeping your back knee straight and heels on the floor. Try to keep your back straight and avoid arching it. You should feel a slight pull in the front of the hip on the back leg, as well as a calf stretch on the back leg. Hold your stretch for up to 30 seconds, performing 3 repetitions on each side.
- Chest stretch – To stretch out your chest, in either a standing or seated position, sit with good posture and perform a rowing motion, pinching your shoulder blades together and pushing your chest out and up. Try to perform at least 20 repetitions. If this is rough on your shoulders, try doing backward shoulder rolls. Roll your shoulders up and back for 20 repetitions to open up the front of your chest and shoulders.
- Back stretch – Sitting is hard on our backs too. To stretch, try standing up at your kitchen counter with your hands on the counter for balance. Try slightly arching backward to extend your spine. If you are unable to do this in standing, you can also do this in a sitting position by alternating between a slouched posture and then moving to an over-exaggerated upright posture, slightly arching your back. Try to perform 10 repetitions.
- Shoulder stretch – In either a standing or seated position, with good posture, reach your arms overhead as high as you are able to perform without pain or pinching in your shoulders. Posture is key when performing this movement, as you will want to keep your shoulder blades back to minimize pinching and to maximize your range of motion. Try performing 10-20 repetitions in a pain free range.
As always, before beginning a stretching program, consult your doctor or physical therapist to make sure that these movements are safe for you and your body. “No Pain, No Gain” is not necessarily true, so you should never stretch through pain or discomfort. You should not feel your muscles trembling or need to hold your breath when stretching either. You should feel a gentle pull in the muscle group you are working on. While many recommend stretching at least 3 times per week, a daily light stretching program will provide the most benefit and keep your body moving and grooving.
Jaime – Outpatient Therapy Manager for Liberty at Home
Dotty – Clinical Manager for Liberty at Home
Liberty at Home empowers Philadelphia-area seniors to confidently remain in the home they love. If you want to live independently, or you are a caregiver struggling to take care of a loved one, you will find that Liberty at Home provides the services you need.