Are you a baby boomer ready to return to exercise after spending too much time in the house due to the pandemic? Making frequent trips to the kitchen, instead of running for the train or bus, has led many of us to gain unwanted pounds and loose conditioning. It is time to emerge from your pandemic cocoon and begin the journey to shed weight, clear brain fog, and get your body moving again in a way that stimulates and revives.

The following gentle stretches will improve circulation, reduce tightness in muscles, and relieve stiff joints, which many are experiencing after more than a year of inactivity.

» READ MORE: The Inquirer welcomes new fitness columnist Yvonne Ferguson Hardin

Windmill stretch

This stretch is great to release tension and tightness in the lower back, hamstrings, and waist.

  • Stand with both arms extended above your head, move your feet so that they are about shoulder width apart (doing this in front of a mirror may help).

  • With hands outstretched, lean to the right side and lower your arms toward the floor, then complete the circle by moving across your body to return upright to the starting point. Repeat this action moving in the opposite direction. Do this three times each way, remembering to breathe while you move and keep your eyes open for balance.

Backstroke and freestyle stroke

This stretch improves the range of motion in the shoulders, while loosening the muscles through the chest and back.

  • Stand upright with both arms down at your sides. Adjust your feet so that they are about shoulder-width apart.

  • Imagine that you are in a pool swimming as you raise your left arm in front of you and swing it backward and around in a full circle like a back stroke. Repeat with the other arm. Allow both arms to flow, one following the other, while exaggerating the movement.

  • Now repeat in the opposite direction as if you were doing a freestyle stroke. Repeat five times each way. Remember to breathe and keep your knees and elbows slightly bent to protect your joints.

‘X’ stretch

This stretch improves flexibility in the hamstrings, inner thigh and mid-back.

  • Stand upright with both arms extended above your head and wide apart. Adjust your feet so that they are a little wider than shoulder width. Your body should form a position similar to the letter “X.”

  • Swing your left arm down to your right ankle (or shin, depending on your flexibility) then reverse back up to the original position. Repeat the same with your right arm to left ankle.

  • Do this five times each way. Remember to maintain a slight bend in your knees and your elbows.

Quad stretch

This stretch improves posture through the spine and flexibility through the front of the thigh (the quadriceps). As you get stronger and can do it without support, it also improves balance.

  • Stand upright with both arms down by your sides. To help with balance, place a chair in front of you or stand close to a wall.

  • Extend your right arm above your head, then lift your left heel backward, grabbing the ankle with your left hand. If you find it hard to balance, place your right hand on the wall or the back of the chair for support. Pull your abdominal muscles in and keep the spine erect.

  • Hold this position while you complete four deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Yvonne Ferguson Hardin (Fergie) is the owner of Fergie’s Instructional Training FIT in Germantown, where she conducts in-person boot camp group classes, and also offers virtual training. She specializes in educational movement programs for exercisers age 55 and older. For more information, go to TransformURlifetoday.com.