Five exercises to help keep your body flexible, strong and safe from injury.
Staying active is important for everyone. But before you start, you should know about a few exercises that will help you avoid some of the most common injuries caused by muscle overuse during walking, hiking, running, swimming or cycling. Do the following moves at the end of your warm-up or right after your workout.
To avoid tight calf and foot muscles when walking, face a wall, stretch out your arms and place your palms on the wall. Put one leg behind you and press the heel into the floor until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times. Then repeat with your other leg.
Before you go hiking, balance on one foot, bend your knee and slowly lower your body a couple of inches with a straight back. Slowly straighten your knee and stand upright again, then rotate your upper body from the hip from left to right. Repeat 10 times and switch to the other leg. This will strengthen your ankles.
If you are a runner, you can help avoid knee problems by doing wall-sits. Place your feet away from the wall, press your back against it and slowly slide down with knees stacked over ankles, feet flat on the floor. Bring your thighs parallel to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then return to an upright position. Repeat five times.
To counter lower back pain while cycling, get down on your hands and knees and slowly extend and lift your right arm and left leg. Look toward the floor, keeping your body stable and your abs contracted. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat five times. Then switch to the opposite side.
To avoid shoulder pains during and after swimming, try the following exercise: stand up with slightly bent knees, feet hip-width apart, and lean forward from the waist with arms hanging down. Hold a weight (3 to 5 pounds) in each hand and slowly lift arms to the sides away from the body with your shoulder blades moving toward each other. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
When you take the time to perform some of these simple stretches and strengthening exercises, you'll keep up with your life in top form! If you're not sure what stretching or strengthening exercises are safe for you, consult your doctor for a recommendation.