Feeling the strain of the workday? Check out these 5 easy stretches for your lunch hour
That was then. This is now.
Not too long ago, I woke up with my back locked in a muscle spasm, stiff as a board. My physical therapist determined the tendons in my legs had lost their flexibility from sitting too much. The hamstring and some other tendons stretch from your foot to your lower back.
When I thought about my average day, I realized I do sit a lot — at home, during my commute, at work, back at home again.
So what to do? For one, you can improve your flexibility by doing simple stretches during the day. Remember to do these stretches slowly and gently. Don’t stretch so far it hurts.
Here are some easy stretches you can try:
The Standing Quad Stretch
1. Stand up straight. You’ll be standing on one leg while doing this. If you prefer, stand near something you can hold onto to avoid falling over.
2. Raise your foot up behind you until you can grasp it with your hand.
3. Pull your heel toward your hip until you feel a stretch.
4. Hold for a 20 count. Repeat with the other leg.
The Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
1. Lunge with one foot far behind the other.
2. Keeping your back straight and chest high, squat down enough to feel a stretch in the thigh of the rear leg. Don’t bend forward at the hip. Keep your forward foot flat on the floor and the rear foot pointing forward, and don’t let your front knee move too far ahead of your front foot.
3. Hold for a 20 count. Repeat with the other leg. Do 2-3 sets.
The Glute Stretch
1. While sitting in your chair, grasp your left leg with both hands just below your knee.
2. Keeping your back straight, pull your leg up toward your left shoulder until you feel a gentle stretch.
3. Hold for a count of 20. Repeat with your right leg.
The Internal Hip Rotator Stretch
1. Sit up straight in your chair.
2. With your feet flat on the floor, raise your left ankle so it rests on your right knee and let your left leg settle naturally.
3. If you feel a stretch already, you can just let it rest there. Otherwise, gently press down on your left knee until you do.
4. Hold for a count of 20. Repeat with your right leg.
Back Release Pose
1. Sit a little forward in your chair.
2. Cross one ankle over the opposite thigh, knee opening out to the side.
3. Exhale and lean forward over your legs.
4. Relax the neck and arms.
5. Hold for five breaths and then do the other side.
Now that you’ve stretched, here’s another quick tip to boost your flexibility — break your habit of sitting for long periods of time.
I work a lot on computers; when I’m “in the zone,” I completely forget about getting up or stirring around. (Or drinking water, another good health habit we should practice.)
So take regular breaks from sitting. My therapist suggested getting a kitchen timer and using it to remind myself to get up and walk around every hour. For the technology-inclined, schedule a reminder task on your computer, tablet or smartphone (yes, there are lots of apps for that!).
When the reminder goes off, just get up and walk around a bit. Not only will you stretch stiff tendons, you’ll improve your circulation. That will help everything in your legs and help prevent deep vein thrombosis, when blood clots form in the legs, break free and circulate to the lungs where they can be life-threatening.
Better circulation also helps you feel and think better, too. That will help every part of your day go better.
David Jones is a communications consultant/content coordinator at HMSA. He is also a writer, artist, photographer and musician who blogs (not as often as he would like!) at dancingtreefrog.com. Jones is a member of the West Oahu Writers Group, helping writers write better since 2000. And while he once was a disc jockey, he is neither as handsome nor as talented as Fernando Pacheco. You can follow him on Twitter.