Week 7 Video Tip: Seated Stretching
Watch this week's video tip below to watch Blythe Hiss discussing flexibility and demonstrating four of her favorite seated stretches.
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Stretching is a key component of a balanced exercise program. Performing stretching exercises daily can increase flexibility, maintain healthy joints, make activities of daily living easier, and improve physical activity performance. Stretching should be performed before and after your exercise session but the best time to stretch is when your muscles are warmed up.
If they are not already warm before you wish to stretch, then you need to warm them up yourself, usually by performing some type of brief aerobic activity. If you're only stretching your upper body, for example, then just warm up your upper body (arm circles or seated marching).
You should never experience pain with any stretching exercise. You should only feel a gentle pull in the muscles being stretched (not the joint). Each stretch should be held between 15 to 30 seconds. You should perform stretching exercises on both sides of the body and your goal should be to move your joints through the full range of motion as determined by your abilities.
For example, if your shoulder joint does not naturally fully extend overhead, do not force it to do so. Do not bounce during any stretch and remember to breathe. Deep relaxation breathing which consists of deep breathing in your nose and long exhalation through your mouth can help to relieve stress and relax your mind and body during your flexibility exercises.
Based on individual strength and abilities, it may be beneficial to use a partner for stretching. When done properly, stretches performed with the assistance of a partner can even be more effective than without. The problem with using a partner, however, is that he or she does not feel what you feel, so cannot respond as quickly to any discomfort that might prompt you to reduce the intensity or stop the stretch.
This can increase your risk of injury so if you do choose to stretch with a partner, make sure that it is someone you trust to pay close attention to you while you stretch, and to act appropriately when you signal that you are feeling pain or discomfort. Try talking with your physical therapist or other qualified health professional about doing a one-time session with you and a partner to discuss proper stretching techniques.
Today we are going to demonstrate a few of my favorite stretches. These are simple stretches that can even be done during commercial breaks or just while taking a break from work at your desk.
The neck stretch is important for maintaining good head posture & flexibility of muscles that support the head.
- Tilt your head to the side, moving your ear toward your shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds.
- Return your head to an upright position.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- If you want to feel more stretch, you (or a partner if needed) can use your hand to gently push down on the side of your head.
Tricep Stretch Across the Body
Your tricep (demonstrate location) is an upper arm muscle. To stretch it:
- Stand or sit with proper posture. Bring one arm across your body.
- Using your other hand, gently pull your elbow farther across your body.
- Feel the stretch along the back of your shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds.
- Release the stretch briefly. Do the stretch 2 times with each arm.
- Again, if you need to use a partner, due to hemiplegia or other mobility impairments, make sure you communicate what you are feeling to them during the stretch.
This stretch is done to maintain flexibility of the chest muscles.
- Sit with proper posture and place your hands behind your head.
- Slowly and gently bring your elbows backward, being careful not to pull on your neck.
- When your elbows are as far back as they will go, pause briefly.
- Feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest
- Relax and return to the starting position
- Repeat 10 times.
- Again, if needed, use a partner to bring your elbows backward gently.
This stretch is critical to maintaining flexibility in the back of the leg and promotes better sitting, standing and walking posture.
- Sit in chair and extend one leg forward (you may need to slide out on your chair)
- Keep knee (and back) straight, gently lean to toes
- Hold for 15-30 seconds, return to start position
- Repeat on the other leg. You should feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Don't perform if it increases leg pain.
- DO stretch spastic muscles but avoid exercises that cause excessive spasticity.
- Stretch in warm water (shower or whirlpool) to allow muscles to stretch more easily
- If a certain joint or muscle is very sore, do gentle stretches and fewer repetitions that day
- Paralyzed muscles should be passively stretched by an exercise specialist.
- Flexibility exercises can also be performed as a daily exercise routine. You can even build it into your daily activities. You may get warmed up cleaning up the kitchen after which a stretching session would be perfect. Or even sitting down folding a load of laundry may warm up your upper body enough to benefit from stretching it once you're finished.
If you have any questions about stretching or exercise in general, please call Blythe Hiss, M.S., RCEP at 312-996-5965.