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Feature Articles: Exercise

 

Stretching is good

Linda Rellergert, Nutrition Specialist, St. Charles County, University of Missouri Extension

 

Fitness experts recommend stretching at the end of an exercise or physical activity session to cool down and as a way to prevent muscle soreness. Stretching exercises are also important to keep the body limber and flexible. Regular stretching can give you more freedom of movement, enabling you to do the things you like to do.
 

Three stretching exercises are featured below: ankle, triceps and wrist stretches. Do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times per session. Slowly stretch into the desired position, going as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.
 

Safety
If you have had a hip replacement, check with the doctor who did your surgery before doing lower body exercises. You may have also been advised not to cross your legs or bend your hips past a 90-degree angle.
 

Always warm up before doing stretching exercises. Stretching your muscles before they are warmed up may result in injury. Do your stretching after another type of exercise like strength training or aerobics, for example. If you are only doing stretching exercises on a particular day, first do a little bit of easy walking and arm pumping to warm muscles. Stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If it does, you are stretching too far, and you need to reduce the stretch so that it doesn't hurt. However, mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal.
 

Never "bounce" into a stretch; make slow, steady movements instead. Jerking into position can cause muscles to tighten, possibly resulting in injury.
 

Avoid "locking" your joints into place when you straighten them during stretches. Your arms and legs should be straight when you stretch them, but don't lock them in a tightly straight position. You should always have a very small amount of bend in your joints while stretching.
 

Ankle Stretch
Stretches front ankle muscles. Remove your shoes. Sit toward the front edge of a chair and lean back, using pillows to support your back. Slide your feet away from the chair, in front of you, so your legs are outstretched. With your heels still on the floor, point your toes away from you until you feel a stretch in the front part of your ankles. If you don't feel a stretch, lift your heels slightly off the floor while doing this exercise. Hold the position briefly. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
 

Summary:
 

  • Sit in chair.
  • Stretch legs out in front of you, feet off of floor.
  • Bend ankles to point feet toward you.
  • Bend ankles to point feet away from you.
  • If you don't feel the stretch, repeat with your feet slightly off the floor.
     

Triceps Stretch
Stretches muscles in back of upper arm.
Hold one end of a towel in your right hand. Raise your right arm; then bend your right elbow so that the towel drapes down your back. Keep your right arm in this position, and continue holding onto the towel. With your left hand, reach behind your lower back and grasp the bottom end of the towel. Gradually grasp higher and higher up the towel with your left hand, as high as you can. As you do this, you will find that it also pulls your right arm down. Continue until your hands touch, or as close to that as you can comfortably go. Reverse positions.
 

Summary:
 

  • Hold towel in right hand.
  • Raise and bend right arm to drape towel down back.
  • Grasp bottom end of towel with left hand.
  • Climb left hand progressively higher up towel, which also pulls your right arm down.
  • Reverse positions.
     

Wrist Stretch
Press your hands together, elbows down. Raise your elbows as nearly parallel to the floor as possible, while keeping your hands together. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
 

Summary:
 

  • Place hands together, in praying position.
  • Slowly raise elbows so arms are parallel to ground, keeping hands flat against each other.
  • Hold position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times.

 


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Last update: Wednesday, January 19, 2011