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It’s no secret exercise is essential for a healthier lifestyle. Weightlifting is loaded with health benefits, ranging from osteoporosis treatment to getting beach-body-ready. Jogging can help lower blood pressure, and fitness classes can help build relationships and grow your social circle!
But what about flexibility?
Health experts believe your genetic makeup mostly determines your level of flexibility. However, if you exercise, you can improve your flexibility by roughly 20 to 25 percent.
These simple exercises are a reliable way to help you reach your flexibility goals.
1. Downward-Facing Dog
Stand with your feet even with your hips — the wider the stance, the easier the stretch will be if you’re just starting out. Bend at the waist and put your hands flat on the ground at about shoulder-width apart. Be sure your spine is straight, and if you feel uncomfortable, shift your weight from one foot to the other to help alleviate the slow burn, or bend at the knees.
2. Child’s Pose
This pose is a rest position you can use during any yoga circuit. Kneel on the floor, with your feet underneath your buttocks. Put your arms in front of your head, so your back is in a straight line and your head is resting on the ground. Child’s pose makes an excellent recovery position.
Most people who have desk jobs carry tension in their lower back. Here is a stretch that will target this tight area. Sit on the floor and bend at the knees, with your feet about 12 inches in front of your glutes. Hug your thighs by wrapping your arms around your hamstrings, and allow your elbows to point out. Let your back curve in the shape of a “C” and inhale. During your inhale, lengthen your spine, and on the exhale, tuck your chin toward your chest.
Do you have a hard time keeping your balance in all these stretches? Strengthen your core with planks. Lie facing down on your forearms with your toes touching the ground. Push up and off the ground, and hold the position as long as you can while keeping your spine and legs straight. The longer you can go, the stronger your core.
5. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Stand with your feet even with your hips. Bend at the waist and wrap your arms around the backs of your legs, or try to touch your toes. Hold this position anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes.
Lie face-down on the ground and place your hands flat at shoulder-width. Press your hands into the floor, and with straight legs, push your chest and stomach off the floor and hold. Flex your glute muscles and be sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears.
Many sports teams use these as warm-up stretches. Take a long step forward, and bend both your front and back legs at 90-degree angles. Try to touch your back knee to the ground, while maintaining a straight back. Putting your weight into your front leg, take your next step and switch knees.
8. Triceps Stretch
You can do this exercise standing or sitting, whichever works best. Lifting one arm above your head, bend it at the elbow so the palm of your hand faces your back. With the other hand, gently push down on the bent elbow. Switch arms and repeat on the other side.
Sitting on the ground, open your bent knees outward while letting the bottoms of your feet touch. Slowly bend your body forward while activating your core and try to get your knees to touch the floor while holding your feet.
10. Tree Pose
This exercise is an excellent test of core muscles and balance. Stand on one leg while placing your other foot on the ankle, calf or thigh on the leg that is “rooted” into the ground. You can put your palms together at your center, or branch them out by reaching to either side. The stronger the core, the stronger the tree.
Feel Good From Head to Toe-Touches
Gaining flexibility is a process, and it won’t happen overnight. However, with a little practice and determination, you’ll be able to see improvements over time, and you’ll feel better overall as well!