Feeling stressed out by the pandemic or by being trapped at home with no end in sight? If you’re a regular exerciser like me, the closure of gyms and fitness centers in most parts of the country may be limiting your options to de-stress by being active. Take a few minutes each day and work on your flexibility with these simple exercises you can do at home. These and many more illustrated exercises are available on Diabetes Motion Academy for free download.
Flexibility exercises in their simplest form stretch and elongate muscles. Good flexibility is as necessary as a part of fitness as a stamina. Muscles must be strong, but they also have to be long (as opposed to contracted) to work optimally. In fact, stretching can do a lot more for your figure than aerobic exercise because flexibility work results in a supple, toned, and a streamlined body. Moreover, the benefits of greater flexibility may go beyond the physical to include stress reduction and promotion of a greater sense of well-being. Exercise disciplines that incorporate stretching with breath control and meditation include yoga, tai chi, and Pilates.
In creating your flexibility workouts and completing them a minimum of 2-3 times a week, it’s again important to include stretches for all of the major muscle groups in your body. You will regain some of your flexibility by stretching regularly, although your gains may be ultimately limited by your genetic makeup, arthritis, metabolic control, and other variables. Nonetheless, even people with type 2 diabetes experience flexibility gains by doing just eight weeks of stretching of their major upper- and lower-body muscles thrice weekly in conjunction with a moderate resistance training program, so likely everyone will benefit to some degree from regular flexibility training and from moving their joints through their full range of motion.
Flexibility Training “Do’s” and “Don’ts”
- Use a full range of motion around joints when stretching
- Complete at least one stretch per major muscle group, optimally holding each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds
- Stretch all parts of your body two to three days per week
- Complete equal stretching exercises on both sides of your body or a joint
- Breathe deeply during all stretches to relax your muscles more
- Bounce during stretches, as doing so can cause muscle tears and joint injuries
- Forget to stretch opposing muscle groups equally (e.g., quads and hamstrings)
- Stretch to the point of causing sharp pain or intense discomfort
- Continue with a stretch if you feel a sharp or immediate pain in any joint or muscle
- Hold your breath or strain while stretching
To get the maximum benefit from static stretching, perform each stretch slowly. Doing the exercises correctly, with good form, is much more important than doing them quickly. To have any lasting effect on the muscle being stretched, you need to hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds to start. The more regularly you stretch, the better you become at judging how far to take your body. Aim to increase the duration of your stretches, so that you are eventually able to hold them for up to 30 seconds, the point at which muscles optimally start to lengthen. Also, be sure to stretch both sides of your body equally, as well as opposing muscles on both sides of a joint (such as biceps and triceps on the upper arm).
Download the free, printable PDF for illustrations and instructions of these flexibility exercises:
#1: Neck stretch
#2: Shoulder/upper back stretch
#3: Chest/shoulder stretch
#4: Shoulder/biceps stretch
#5: Upper back/triceps stretch
#6: Wrist stretch
#1: Quad (front of thigh) stretch
#2: Hamstring (back of thigh) stretch
#3: Alternate hamstring (back of thigh) stretch
#4: Gluteal (bottom) stretch
#5: Calf stretch
#6: Ankle stretch
#1: Abdominal stretch
#2: Back/gluteal stretch
#3: Complete back (cat) stretch
#4: Total body stretch
From Diabetes Motion Academy Resources, “Flexibility Exercises,” Sheri R. Colberg © 2017.
Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D., is the author of The Athlete’s Guide to Diabetes: Expert Advice for 165 Sports and Activities (the newest edition of Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook). She is also the author of Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies, co-published by Wiley and the ADA. A professor emerita of exercise science from Old Dominion University and an internationally recognized diabetes motion expert, she is the author of 12 books, 30 book chapters, and over 420 articles. She was honored with the 2016 American Diabetes Association Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award. Contact her via her websites (SheriColberg.com and DiabetesMotion.com).