Stretching is not just reserved for athletes and gym-goers.
The practice of keeping our muscles limber and flexible can benefit us all, especially when done consistently. But we all have busy schedules. So, to accommodate, we’ve rounded up standing stretches for your legs that you can do any time, anywhere.
According to Harvard Medical School, “stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints.” In fact, without it, Harvard Medical School notes, “the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”
For those who sit all day, the importance of stretching becomes even greater. And because so many jobs now are performed digitally, a large percent of the population spends much of their workday sitting down, in front of a computer. With these long hours in sedentary positions, our muscles can become used to one position, making them increasingly inelastic.
To fight back, one can incorporate standing stretches into their routines, whether it’s to begin the day or an addition to their gym routine.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you need to spend 30 minutes each day stretching. Even 10-20 minutes two or three times a week helps. The key is to stay consistent. Although you may not see immediate effects, the compound interest of the habit will result in significant gains over time.
A few things to consider before beginning a new stretch routine:
- Don’t bounce. Hold a stretch evenly, as bouncing or rocking back and forth can cause injury as you may stretch the muscle beyond its physiological limit.
- Consider a light warmup. Warm muscles are better than cold muscles. Even a short five-minute walk is enough to loosen the muscles.
- Don’t stretch through pain. If you experience pain when stretching, stop. You’re likely damaging the muscle more than helping it.
Now, let’s get into five stretches that are designed to be done anywhere.
Standing Hamstring and Calf Stretch
This stretch targets two muscle groups at the same time. Stand about a foot away and place both of your hands on a wall. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Then, take a step back with one foot, keeping that leg straight. Push down with your heel so your entire foot maintains contact with the ground.
Maintain for 30-60 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
You feel should feel a stretch in your calves; if not, lean forward slightly. By keeping your back leg straight, you should also feel a stretch through your hamstring.
Standing Hamstring Stretch (One Leg)
Another stretch to target your hamstrings. While standing up straight, lift one leg and rest it on a shoebox, or another item around the same height. While keeping both of your legs straight, reach up towards the ceiling, and begin to lean slightly forward. As you do, you should feel a stretch in your hamstring. Maintain for 30-60 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on both sides.
For this stretch, it’s important to keep your back straight and to avoid hunching over and putting undue stress on your neck.
Standing Quad Stretch
Cross your ankle over your opposite leg, just above the knee, and squat down. You can extend your arms out for balance, or be up against a wall for additional stability. Look straight ahead and avoid straining your neck. Hold for 30-60 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times with equal recovery time in between sets.
This stretch works your hips, glutes, and lower back.
For even more stretches, visit our blog on activities that will help you build up strong, healthy feet.