By Haley Leefers, DPT, Clinic Manager at ApexNetwork Physical Therapy

It’s the time of year to set new goals and make new commitments to better ourselves. Often times people set goals that are related to health, wellness, and/or fitness. Slimming down and getting on an exercise program are the usual goals, as we all know from the significant increase in advertisements for gyms and weight loss products. However, there is one aspect of improving fitness and wellness that many often forget, and that is flexibility training. It is important to have flexibility to prevent injury and maintain proper body mechanics when exercising. Conveniently, participating in flexibility training is relatively easy to do and cost free. Almost all flexibility exercises can be performed right in your own living room. Here are a few ideas to get you started on improving your flexibility in the New Year:

Thoracic (middle) Spine and Shoulder Flexibility

To complete these exercises you will need to roll up a bath towel so that it is approximately 4 inches in diameter.

1. Thoracic Spine Extension

Begin by sitting down on the ground. Place the towel roll on the ground behind you, oriented horizontally so that the rolled edges will be facing towards your shoulders when you lay down. Lay back on the towel. The towel should be in your shoulder blade region, so you may need to use your legs to roll up or down on the towel to reposition. Allow your head to relax back and place both of your arms over your head. Hold the stretch for 1-2 minutes.

2. Shoulder and Chest Stretch

Again, begin by sitting down on the ground. Place the towel roll on the ground behind you, oriented vertically this time so that the rolled edges will be facing your head and lower back when you lay down. Lay back on the towel roll. The roll should be centered on your back, directly over your spine, in your mid back region. Raise both of your arms so that your hands are level with your shoulders then open your arms outwards. Allow your arms to relax out to the sides of your body. Hold the stretch for 1-2 minutes.

Lower Extremity Flexibility

 1. Hip and Knee Stretch

Start by standing up and finding a stable surface for balance. Hold on to the stable surface with one hand, and then use your other hand to grab your foot behind you by bending your knee. Ensure that your knee is pointing towards the floor, and that your thigh is not coming forward. To achieve maximal stretch, the thigh of the leg you are stretching should not be in front of the thigh of the leg you are standing on. Hold the stretch for 1-2 minutes. Then switch legs and repeat.

2. Calf Stretch

1

You will need to use a wall for this stretch. Begin standing approximately 1 foot from the wall and face the wall. Ensure both of your feet are pointed directly at the wall and both of your hands are on the wall in front of you at shoulder height. Take a step back with one foot leaving the other foot forward. Ensure that the foot you step back with is still pointed directly at the wall and that your knee on this leg remains completely straight. Next, bend the knee of the leg that is in front and lean your hips forward towards the wall until a stretch is felt in the calf of the leg that is in the back. Hold for 1-2 minutes. Then switch legs and repeat.

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