4 Lower-Body Stretches You Should Try If You Have to Sit for Long Periods
by Autumn Jones
Whether you're working hard at your desk or taking a cross-country road trip, sometimes long periods of sitting can be unavoidable. But that doesn't mean you have to suffer with the stiff knees and achy muscles that can sometimes come with spending too much time in a chair!
Incorporating lower-body stretches and intermittent movement into your day can be a game changer here. As Mayo Clinic points out, the impact of movement — even a small amount of gentle movement — can make a significant difference in your daily comfort and well-being.
Don't underestimate the power of stretching a few minutes each day! Here's what you need to know about stretching properly as well as a few movements you can try today.
Important Tips For Stretching
While you may be eager to hop up from your chair and start showing your muscles some care, even stretching requires a couple of considerations to avoid injury. Before you begin your upper- and lower-body stretches, remember to warm up for a few minutes with some movement, as stretching cold muscles can cause injury. Harvard Health recommends paying close attention to your form, focusing intently on the muscle you're stretching, and never stretching to the point of pain.
It's a good idea to treat your body to some restorative stretches as much as possible, so don't feel the need to limit yourself to just one stretching session per day! You could, for instance, try doing a few stretches before you start your morning routine to get your muscles warmed up for the day ahead.
If you really want to up your game, take a few minutes during your lunch break to walk around, stretch, and simply breathe. This can help to alleviate the aches and pains that tend to set in by the day's end.
4 Effective Lower-Body Stretches
As you continue on your fitness journey and learn new workouts and exercises, you're sure to find a combination of stretches that works best for you. Give the following four movements a try and listen to your body as you experiment with each — you may find some worthy additions to your go-to gym routine!
1. Classic Calf Stretch
Stand with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart. When you're ready, step your right foot forward and keep your left foot planted with your heel down, so the whole foot is flat on the floor. Next, bend your right leg forward until you feel a stretch — make sure your knee doesn't move past your ankle. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds then switch to your left leg.
2. Cross-Cross Hamstring Stretch
From a standing position, start this stretch by crossing your left leg over your right leg. Now bend forward at the hips and try to touch your shins (or the floor) with your fingertips. Be sure to keep your back knee as straight as possible. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
3. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Start by kneeling on your right knee. Next, place your left foot on the floor keeping your left knee over your ankle, forming a 90 degree angle. Gently push your hips forward while keeping your back straight and leaning your torso forward. Gradually move forward until you feel a stretch, but be sure to pull back if you feel any pain. Hold this position for 30 seconds before repeating 2 to 5 times, then switch to the left leg and start over.
4. Standing Chest Stretch
Stand with your left side facing a wall, then bend your left elbow 90 degrees. Place your palm and forearm flat against the wall. Next, lean your torso forward until your feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, then turn around and repeat with your right arm.
Making lower-body stretches (and a few upper body to counteract all the sitting and leaning over a computer or steering wheel) a part of your day can help you stay active, which can provide a lot of health benefits. To fit more stretching into your busy schedule, try setting a timer on your phone once every hour, challenging a friend or coworker to stretch with you three times a day, or seeing how many stretches you can get in while dinner is in the oven. It never hurts to have some fun while you're getting healthy!
As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.