We all know that regular stretching exercises are important for improving flexibility and increasing range of movement. They’re also a key part of recovery and rehabilitation from injury; be it a persistent ankle sprain that keeps rearing its head, or tight calves that stop you wanting to run (even for the bus), these niggles need your attention but that inevitably requires time. And therein lies a problem for most people - with hectic modern lives they simply don’t have the time to devote to these exercises.
Or so they think!
There are in fact plenty of ways to integrate effective stretching/toning exercises into your daily routine and in this blog we’ll show you how...
Stretched For Time
No matter how busy you are, there are moments every day that are effectively “dead time” and it’s these opportunities that are perfect for fitting in a subtle bit of stretching.
Here are our top 6 “dead times” and the exercises you could be doing...
1. Cleaning teeth. Got a sore upper back or neck from hours spent sat at a desk? You need to open the chest with a pec stretch which helps to reverse the effects of what life at a computer does to the shoulders and neck. Whilst brushing your teeth with one hand, place the other on the doorframe with your arm outstretched (standing at a right angle to the doorframe) . Then gently lean forward, using your bodyweight to create the stretch into the chest. Swap hands and repeat on the other side.
For sprained ankle rehab, stand on one leg with knee slightly bent and simply balance for the duration of your teeth brushing. For your first few times you’ll probably wobble, but once you can complete the exercise without wobbling try progressing to doing this exercise with eyes shut and then, when that is easy, do it with open eyes but stand on a cushion to make the floor unstable and challenge the ‘proprioception’ of the ankle again.
2 . Tube / train journey. Firstly, always take the opportunity to stand (there is every chance you will be sitting for the rest of the day!) and put your phone/tablet away for a bit.
Try to balance on just one leg, hovering the other leg just off the ground to activate and reinforce proprioception in the ankle / foot.
If the train is fairly quiet you can also use a handrail to stretch pecs as in the teeth cleaning routine.
3. Lift vs Stairs. If you're able to take the stairs instead of the lift that is a real bonus, but if the lift is inevitable make it count:
Calf stretch: keep the leg straight and just by popping your foot up against the wall of the lift and leaning in you will get a great stretch up the back of the calf. Hold the stretch for half the duration of the lift ride and then swap to the other leg. Want to hold it for longer? Just go to the top floor and back!
4. Get your balls out in the office. Just because you’re sat at your desk doesn’t me you can’t stretch!
Pop your shoe off and gently roll a golf ball along the bottom of the foot from heel to ball (no pun) of the foot. It can be pretty painful especially initially but it is great to stretch and open up the feet.
Put a tennis ball under your hamstring and by gently straightening the leg under the desk you will feel a good localised stretch where the ball is placed. Move it around to areas that need it.
5. Sofa...so good. But what about the floor? Although collapsing on to the sofa at the end of the day is very tempting, the floor could be far more beneficial. Sit in front of the arm of your sofa or against the wall, legs out straight in front of you and slowly do a ‘roll down’: Fold yourself down starting with your head and trying to move one vertebra at a time until you are feeling a great stretch from the back of legs all the way through your back up to the top of your shoulders. Then gently roll up again, one vertebra at a time. A fantastic way to stretch out after a busy day.
6. Bedtime workout. As you take each sock off before bed, drop it on the floor and try to pick-up-and-drop with each foot 5 times to strengthen the foot and activate the proprioceptive fibres.
And then we are, 6 ways to subtly fit in some effective stretching into even the most busy of days.
Of course, if you find yourself with more time on your hands, then follow our guide to static stretching too!