So you know it does your body good to stretch (who wouldn't rather be blissfully flexible than painfully tight?), but let's face it: Most folks skip it because they don't think they have the time. Not so! Allow me to let you in on a little secret: You really only need about 5 minutes to give your whole body a good loosening up.
Don't believe me? Try this simple routine, courtesy of exercise physiologist and American Council on Exercise spokesperson Tracie Rogers, PhD, who teaches the human movement program at the Arizona School of Health Sciences in Mesa. Do it after your workout, when your muscles are already warmed up (never stretch ’em cold). Ideally, you'll want to go through the routine most days of the week, but, really, even doing it once or twice a week will help. In any case, hold each position for 15 seconds (or longer if you like).
- Stand comfortably with arms by your sides. Raise your arms overhead and clasp your hands together. Keeping shoulders down, stretch yourself very tall as you reach toward the ceiling. Pull arms toward the right, stretching the left side of your body, then to the left to stretch your right side. Release.
- Clasp hands behind your back and lift them as high as feels comfortable, stretching your chest and upper body. Release.
- Drop your chin and roll your head to the right to stretch your neck, hold, then roll back through all the way to the left and hold. Release.
- Lie on your back with legs straight. Lift your right leg so the bottom of your foot faces the ceiling; if you have a towel or strap, loop it over your forefoot and pull gently to deepen the hamstring stretch. Release and lower your leg, then repeat on the left.
- Kneel upright on both knees. Step your right foot forward, foot flat on the floor; move your right knee forward so it comes over your ankle, stretching your left hip flexor. Return to kneeling, then repeat on the other side.
- Return to standing with feet hip-width apart. Bend your right knee to lift your foot behind you; grab your right ankle with your right hand and hold for a quadriceps stretch. Release, return to standing, and repeat on the left side.
- Step your legs wide with toes pointed out. Push your hips back to come into a squat (keep knees behind toes) to stretch your whole lower body. With hands on knees, push your right shoulder forward for a stretch, then relax, and repeat on the left. Return to standing.
And you're done!