Seated Exercises for Older Adults
5 Essential (And Simple) Stretches For Women
They may be cute and make your leg muscles look amazing, but the sad truth about your favorite pumps is that they restrict the range of motion in your foot, ankle, and calf, says Wolf. "If you wear heels a lot, it's almost as if you're putting your feet in casts," he says. "Over time, your Achilles tendon will get shorter, which makes it more prone to injury. You'll also have more limited range of motion in your feet and calves."
Stretch yourself:Wolf's favorite stretch for the muscles in the foot and lower leg that are most affected by wearing heels uses a little contraption called the Pro Stretch, which creates the same kind of stretch as if you were to drop one heel off a stair—except the device cradles your heel and helps lengthen the Achilles tendon more safely. To approximate the stretch without one, use a wall, and don't flex your foot too high. "You should feel a gentle stretch in your foot, the back of your ankle, and calf. And it's important to remember that you should stop if you feel pain."
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Think of the last time you held a young child. Odds are you propped him or her on one hip to support the baby's weight, right? Well, that's creating an asymmetry in your hip muscles, says Wolf, which is important to try to even out. "When you stretch the muscles on one side of the body you shorten the ones on the other side, which can lead to problems over time," says Wolf.
Stretch yourself:To lengthen the muscles on both sides of your hips, Brabants likes this hip flexor stretch: From a kneeling position, bring your right foot forward, making sure your right knee is directly over the right ankle and the right hip is bent to about 90 degrees. Keeping your spine straight and core engaged, raise your arms up toward the sky and squeeze your left glute and hold the stretch for 30 to 40 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Whether you love or hate the size of your bra, the fact that youweara bra means you likely have a different upper body posture than men, says Wolf, which requires stretching. "Poor posture tends to start in young women when they first start developing and feel embarrassed about their new breasts," says Wolf. "That hunching over creates bad postural habits that can shorten the pectoral muscles in the chest." That same hunched-over habit can also occur in women with larger breasts, which are heavy and can cause chronic pain over time. The result? Those tight pecs will cause your head to pitch forward a little, overstretching the muscles in the back of your neck and causing tension there. (Sound familiar?)
Stretch yourself:Place a foam roller on the floor and carefully lay over it on your back, placing your tailbone on one end and head on the other. Your pelvis and head should both feel supported by the roller. Bend your elbows and let your arms fall toward the ground, feeling an opening in your chest, says Wolf. "Stay here for at least five minutes, and do this every day for the most benefit," he says.
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When you're expecting, you're carrying around a lot of extra weight—and it's all in the front, says Brabants. The antidote: Stretch your backside. "The hamstrings are a big muscle group in the back body, and stretching them can improve your range of motion in both your knee and hip joints and also alleviate lower back, hip, and knee pain," she says. However, it's important to remember that when you're pregnant, you've got an extra dose of the hormone relaxin in your body, which literally relaxes your muscles and causes you to be able to stretch more deeply than usual. So, be especially mindful not to overstretch during this time, says.
Stretch yourself:Lay flat on the floor with your knees bent and lace an exercise band or towel around the bottom of one foot. Keeping both hips on the ground, slowly straighten that leg and flex your foot until you feel a stretch in the middle part of your hamstring. Hold 20 to 30 seconds, and then lower your leg. Repeat 3 times, then switch sides. (Here are the 3 safest ways to stretch your hamstrings.)
Whether you're dealing with PMS-induced mood swings, a tension headache, or menstrual cramps, your inclination may be to stay camped out on the couch. However, one popular yoga pose can help you feel better fast, says Brabants. "Downward-Facing Dog not only gives you a gentle stretch all over—in the shoulders, back, abs, hamstrings, calves, feet and hands—but it also boosts circulation, which gets a fresh supply of blood flowing through your body to decrease pain and ease mood swings, bloating, tension, and more," she says.
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Stretch yourself:Come to your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. On an inhale, tuck your toes under your heels; on an exhale, lift your hips to come into an upside down "V" shape. (You might want to do this on a yoga mat or some other sticky surface, so your hands and feet have some "grip" on the floor.) Work on bringing your legs toward straight and lowering your heels toward the ground as you keep your hands firmly planted in front of you. Finally, relax your head between your arms and hold this stretch for 4 to 5 deep breaths.
Video: Hip Strengthening Exercises Using a Resistance Band. Free 5 minute injury prevention routine
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