Afternoon stretches to improve flexibility and alertness

July 28, 2015

At the end of your day,your muscles are relatively warm and pliable from being active, which makes it the perfect time to do the following stretches.

Afternoon stretches to improve flexibility and alertness

Research suggests that flexibility peaks between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. due to the body's natural circadian rhythms. Though you'll achieve some benefit whenever you stretch, an afternoon routine may help you to gain more flexibility faster.

Lateral side stretch

  • Sit on the edge of your chair with feet on the floor.
  • Place your left palm against the seat of the chair; reach your right arm overhead. Extend upwards through your spine; bend sideways to the left.
  • Hold 20 seconds, release. Repeat on the other side.

Hip opener

  • Sit on a chair, feet on the floor.
  • Lift your right leg and place your right foot on your left thigh. Lean forward from the hips. Keep your back straight.
  • Hold 20 seconds, release. Repeat with your left leg.

Chest stretch

  • Stand with feet under your hips.
  • Clasp hands behind your back.
  • Roll your shoulders up, back, then down, feeling your chest open. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • To increase the stretch, lift your arms. Hold 20 seconds; release.

Seated hamstring stretch

Sit on the floor with left leg extended. Place right foot against your left thigh. Lengthen your spine; bend forward from the hips. Don't let your back arch. Hold 20 seconds. Repeat with your right leg extended. To increase the effectiveness of your stretching routine even more, follow these tips:

  • Feel the target muscle. Slowly proceed through the movement, feeling a stretching sensation in the muscle as it lengthens and relaxes. If you feel a sharp pain in a joint, such as your knee, you have either gone too far or your technique is off. If you feel nothing at all, you have either not gone far enough or, again, are using the wrong technique.
  • Relax. Many people tense up as they stretch, for example, hunching their shoulders towards their ears. Don't. Notice whether you are clenching any other muscles. Gently allow them to release as you exhale.
  • Breathe into it. If you breathe slowly and deeply as you stretch, you'll increase blood flow and make your stretching more effective. Always exhale as you move into the stretch. As you hold, inhale by expanding the abdomen, ribcage and chest, then exhale as you visualize your breath flowing through the tension you feel in your muscle.
  • Stretch every day. When it comes to flexibility, what you don't use, you lose — and quickly. It's much better to stretch a little every day than to do a long stretching routine once or twice a week.
  • Train muscle groups equally. Hold a stretch on the tighter side of your body twice as long as on the more flexible side. Prevent muscle imbalances by stretching the tighter muscle for twice as long or repeat a stretch on that side to even things out.
  • Use proper body alignment. It's easy to cheat when you stretch, but then you won't get the stretch you need. The most typical "cheat" is rounding your back. In 95 per cent of stretches, you keep your spine long and flat. Before bending forward into any stretch, first inhale and extend upwards, creating as much space as you can between each vertebra in your spine. When you bend forward into a stretch, bend from the hips, not the waist. As you bend forward, your pubic bone should move forward while your tailbone (coccyx) moves back and up.
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