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A stretch in time saves nine: Stretching exercises

Regular stretching exercises improve joint flexibility and prevent muscle tears, sprains and strains – Monojit Ghosh

Stretching exercises keep body muscles flexible, strong and healthy. As people age, joints lose up to 50 percent of their flexibility. Moreover without exercise, muscles shorten and tighten and become weak. This puts the body at risk of joint pain, strains and muscle damage. Regular stretching exercises improve joint flexibility and prevent muscle tears, sprains and strains. Stretching workouts also boost nutrition supply to muscles and improve overall well-being.

I strongly recommend children and adults follow a workout schedule comprising stretching exercises daily
or at least three-four times per week. Joints and muscles critical for mobility are in the body’s lower extremities — calves, hamstring, hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial.

Useful advice

  • When doing stretching exercises, hold the position for 30 seconds. Don’t bounce back quickly, as it can
    cause injury.
  • If you experience pain while exercising, it may be because of an injury or damage to body tissue. Stop
    stretching that muscle and consult your doctor.

Here are some simple stretching exercises that you should include in your exercise regimen:

Neck side bend and rotation. Stand or sit facing forward and bend the neck to one side and hold for 30
seconds. Repeat on the other side. Now, slowly bend your neck towards the chest and rotate side to side in
clockwise direction. Do the same in an anti-clockwise direction. Repeat 2-3 times.

Shoulder roll. Stand with your hands to your sides. Roll your shoulders backwards in a circular motion,
completing 5 rotations. Then do the same in the forward direction. Repeat 2-3 times.

Overhead arm stretch. Sit on a chair, facing forward with your feet on the ground. Extend your right arm up above your head and reach to the left. Bend your torso until you feel the stretch in your right lats and shoulder. Repeat 5 times, then do the same thing with your left arm.

Cross body shoulder stretch. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Stretch the right arm out straight, pass the left hand under it and fold it backwards to press the right arm across the body.

Pec stretch. You’ll need a doorway for this stretch. Step into the doorway and place one forearm on the doorframe with same side leg forward. Make sure your elbows are bent at the 90-degree angle. Let the weight of your body fall forward slightly so that you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders

Cat and cow. Start on all fours with your neck in a neutral position, not lifted. Your palm should be directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. On your next inhale, tuck your pelvis and round out your mid back. Draw your naval toward your spine and drop your head to relax the neck. After 3-5 seconds, exhale, and return to a neutral spine position. Then turn your face toward the sky, allowing your back to sink toward the floor. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat this sequence 5 times.

Child’s pose. Start on the ground on all fours. With your big toes touching, spread your knees as far apart as they’ll go and sit your butt back onto your feet. Sit straight up with your arms extended above your head. On your next exhale, hinge at the waist and drop your upper body forward between your legs. Allow your forehead to touch the floor, your shoulders to spread, and your butt to sink back. Hold for at least 20 seconds.

Knee to chest. Lie with your back on the ground. Bend your left leg and bring it to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Now, do the same with your right leg. Complete the sequence three times.

Superman. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended above your head. Keeping your neck neutral, lift your arms and legs at the same time. Make sure you’re using your back and glutes to lift. Complete three sets of 10 reps.

Lying hamstring stretch. Lie flat on either the ground or on a mat with the legs fully stretched out. To
stretch the right leg, hold the back of the right knee with both hands, pull the leg up toward the chest, and slowly straighten the knee until it feels as though it is stretching. Switch and do the same with the other leg. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds.

Quad stretch. Stand and hold onto a wall for balance if needed. Grab the top of the left foot and bend your
knee, bringing the foot towards to your glutes, knee pointing straight at the floor. You should feel a stretch
right down the front of your leg. Squeeze your hip forward for a deeper stretch. Hold for 15-30 seconds and
switch sides, repeating 1-3 times.

Seated side stretch. Sitting or standing, clasp your hands straight up overhead, palms facing the ceiling.
Stretch up and then over to the right, feeling a stretch down your left side. Hold 15-30 seconds and switch side, repeating three times.

(Monojit Ghosh is a former gymnast and fitness trainer and gymnastics coach at Art Corner Gymnastics, Bangalore)

Also read: 3 simple exercises to relieve back pain

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