Can you touch your toes? Whether you're a seasoned sprinter or a sedentary worker, anyone can have flexibility problems. Over time, such habits as skipping a post-workout stretch or prolonged sitting can cause tight hamstrings and hips. And although some people don't mind the long-distance relationship that's developed between their hands and toes, loss of lower limb and back flexibility is a health hazard.
For muscles to stay supple, they require constant conditioning. When hips and hamstrings aren't stretched, they shrink, creating tension on surrounding structures such as the pelvis. When pelvic positioning shifts, lower back pain, limited mobility, increased risk of herniated discs, decreased range of motion, abdominal weakness, and other injuries can occur.
Live like the loose and limber by practicing the following simple stretches once a day. All you need for this workout is a towel or resistance band. Although these exercises are designed to support those with spinal instability, those with lower back pain should always practice caution by consulting a physician before activity.
Areas stretched: abdomen, neck, back and hips
Begin on your hands and knees, aligning your shoulders above your wrists and your hips over your knees. Keep your neck neutral and relaxed.
Take a deep breath and dip down at your belly so your torso forms a "U" shape. Open your chest and tilt your chin up.
Take another breath, filling your lungs with air as you pull your belly button in toward your spine and arch your back into an upside down "U." Repeat 10 times.
Areas stretched: hamstrings, hips and glutes
Start in a supine position with your back flat against the floor and loop a band or towel around the center of your right foot.
Elevate your right leg while keeping your left leg extended on the floor. If your back feels any discomfort, bend your left leg so your foot is flat on the floor.
Pull your right leg in toward your torso until you feel tension in the back of your leg. Hold for 20 seconds, then slowly lower your leg to the right until you feel a stretch in your inner thigh. Hold for 20 seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Pacifying pigeon pose
Areas stretched: hips and glutes
Start on your hands and knees, with your knees below your hips and hands beneath the shoulders.
Bend your right knee and slide it forward between your hands. Your right heel should rest under your left hip. Keep your left leg extended straight behind you and your hips square.
Open your chest by taking a deep breath. If you notice your right hip is lifting off the floor, simply add a folded towel for support. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
Areas stretched: hips, glutes and lower back
Begin on your back with your knees bent and both feet planted on the floor.
Carefully lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh so your right ankle is resting slightly above your left knee, as if you're making a figure-four pattern.
Lock your hands around the bottom of your left thigh and pull it in toward your torso. Keep your neck relaxed and upper body against the floor during this stretch. Hold 20 to 30 seconds then repeat on the opposite side.
Feel good from head-to-toe by finding time for flexibility.
Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach with a focus on movement and mindfulness. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.