When it comes to stretching, there are a whole lot of options: from yoga, Pilates, to dance classes, each type of exercise seems to have its own system.
But what are the best everyday stretches for anyone looking to avoid sore muscles, get more flexible, and protect his or her muscles from injuries?
We turned to Marilyn Moffat, a professor of physical therapy at New York University and author of “Age Defying Fitness,” to go over some of the best basic stretches for everyone.
Remember: Don’t do these stretches if they make you uncomfortable or if you have existing muscle problems. Instead, consult a physical therapist..
First thing's first, it's important to be conscious of what you're doing with your neck. Having good posture will help you do these stretches correctly, so bring your chin back and down and make sure your neck isn't jutting out. And for the first set of stretches, take a seat.
To start, we'll go through some neck rotations. Be sure to hold each side for 30 to 60 seconds. This applies to all stretches.
The next one gets a little more complicated. Looking straight ahead, tilt your neck to the right and drape your arm so that it rests near your left ear. Your left hand will extend down toward the floor, either grabbing onto the chair or just pulling down. Repeat on the other side.
Next is the back-scratch stretch. The important thing here, Moffat said, is to make sure you don't hunch over. Try reaching hands toward each other, but don't worry if they don't touch. Repeat on the other side.
Now it's time for a simple spine-stretching fold. Keeping your neck safe, bend over in your chair, making sure you're not straining anything. Hold this for at least 30 seconds.
Then, if your back will allow it, try hyperextending backward. The little back bend is just enough to stretch out your spine without going too far.
Still seated, it's time to move into your 'trunk rotation.' Good posture here is still important, as is making sure your arms are crossed, looking far over each shoulder for at least 30 seconds.
Next: the trunk lateral flexion. Bending on one side, reach your hand up and over, like it's reaching for that space where the wall meets the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.
A classic, the quad stretch is great if done right. Make sure your knee is extending down to the floor, not out and about. Hold on to a wall if you're feeling wobbly. Repeat with the other leg.
Next, find a wall to do a heel-chord stretch. This requires placing both feet firmly on the floor with the front knee moving into a bend and big toe against the wall. Repeat.
You'll need to lie down for these next stretches. Using a strap, ideally, reach one foot up to 90 degrees into the air. The other foot should be planted on the floor, knee bent at 45 degrees. Switch legs out, and repeat on other side.
Hip flexors need stretches too. For this one, the best way is to lie on your back. Keep the other leg straight, then after 30 seconds swap legs.
Finally, time for my personal favourite: piriformis These are done lying on your back. Keeping your neck back and down is the most important part, as well as making sure the ankle is in the middle of the thigh. If the stretch is too intense, bring the uncrossed leg out farther. Repeat with the other leg.
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