This guide to keeping your body supple and flexible is really easy to follow, only takes a few minutes and could help you to avoid back pain and dangerous falls
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Remaining bendy is vital as we age.
“Having a good level of flexibility will maximise body function, help you maintain good posture and prevent falls,” says Rosaria Barreto, trainer and director at vitalityhub.co.uk.
“It will also allow you to do daily tasks without struggling and increase the likelihood of living pain free. To stay flexible, you need to stretch and elongate your muscles on a daily basis so they maintain their full range of motion.”
Getting into positions your body doesn’t normally adopt is also vital, but it doesn’t have to require a personal trainer and Bikram yoga membership.
Here’s how to ditch the downward dog and get flexi in your spare time instead.
Be book wise
“Spending a lot of our time hunched over a screen or book can cause stresses and strains on our chest, neck, shoulders and upper back,” says Rosaria.
“Our bodies aren’t designed to look down for prolonged periods, so try placing a pillow under your arms to position your book so it’s aligned with your eyes. This will encourage better posture overall.
“Every 10 minutes, try lying on your back on the floor or bed with a rolled-up towel or blanket along your spine (between your shoulder blades from the base of your neck to mid back).
“Read in this position, with arms straight and eyes level for a minimum of one minute. This stretches your chest, the front of your shoulders and the upper back.”
Hands on your head
“It’s the classic ‘I’m relaxing’ position, which I like to call ‘the sunbather’ and has the opposite effect on muscles that are in a contracted position for 95 per cent of your day – especially if you work at a computer,” says Rosaria.
“Simply putting your hands behind your head stretches muscles at the side and top of your back and the back of your upper arms which can help improve upper back posture and reduce shoulder inflammation.”
Hug yourself goodnight
Lying down in bed, draw your knees up to your chest and hug them gently towards your body. This helps stretch your back. If it feels comfortable to do so, rock gently and slowly from side to side. As well as working like a massage on your spine, this movement could even help you nod off.
Stretch while you soak
Flexible hamstrings – the muscles that run along the back of your thigh from hip to knee – can improve posture and prevent back, knee and hip pain, too.
“They can be a challenging area to stretch though, unless you’re in the bath,” says Rosaria. “Try sitting upright with your legs straight, cross one leg over the other (maintaining a straight leg) and reach towards your ankles. Hold it for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. This stretch targets your lower back too.”
Sway to the rhythm
You don’t even have to get up on your feet to stay flexi. Put on some relaxing music and sway side to side as you sit.
“Raise your right hand high overhead and use your left elbow and forearm to support you on the chair arm or your leg,” says Rosaria. “Sway to the left, looking up towards your hand if you can. Hold, then repeat on the other side.”
Stretching tight muscles that run along the side of our body can help alleviate back and shoulder pain so roll your shoulders in time to the music.
“Dynamic stretches such as shoulder rolls help improve the range of motion around a joint,” says Rosaria. “Simply create a circular motion with your shoulders and change direction every minute or so.”
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Engage your muscles while you chill out in front of the telly by doing the Sphinx.
This pose strengthens your spine and stretches your chest, shoulders and belly by creating the opposite shape to the one our backs are positioned for most of the day.
To do it, lie down on your front and prop yourself up on your elbows (which should be just in front of your shoulders), with palms flat on the floor in front of you. You’ll feel the pull in your lower back.
If it feels wrong, move your elbows further forward and lower your chest a little more to the floor. Stay in position for a few minutes if you can do so comfortably.
Online shop sideways…
Instead of facing your laptop head-on, turn your chair to the side and rotate your body to see the screen.
You only need to do it for 30 seconds each side to give a fantastic stretch to your side waist which, in turn, helps with twists and turns in everyday life.
Cop a squat
Kids squat a lot simply because they’re flexible enough to do it! Squatting as an adult can be difficult but it can improve ankle mobility and hip muscle strength. Give it a go for a couple of minutes at a time.
Simply squat downwards with your feet facing forwards and knees wider apart than your feet.
Heels should be in contact with the floor but many people find this hard so either wear shoes with a small heel or, if you are barefoot, place a wedge of some sort under your heels.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.