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The Healthy Living Magazine

7 Easy Stretches for Good Health

This 10-minute stretching session can keep you limber

By Kirsten C. Ward, MS, RCEP, CDE , ,

Illustrations by David Preiss

Safety Note: Talk to your doctor before making any big changes to your exercise plan.

Stretching is a little like flossing after brushing. You know you should do it, but it’s so easy to skip. Here’s why it’s a smart addition to your fitness plan: Stretching increases flexibility, which helps improve range of motion, and it enhances coordination, making falls less likely. A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science suggests it also helps people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood glucose levels. But that’s not all.

People with diabetes have a higher incidence of joint issues—including carpal tunnel syndrome, frozen shoulder, arthritis, and what’s known as limited joint mobility syndrome (or diabetic cheiroarthropathy)—making stretching even more important. While blood glucose management is the key to improving limited joint mobility syndrome, daily stretching may help prevent or delay the progression.

Do the moves below—one after the other—for a 10-minute stretching session. If time permits, repeat the series a second time. 

1. NECK STRETCH

Targets: back and sides of neck and back of ears

A: Sit on a chair with your feet hip distance apart on the floor. Place your right hand underneath the seat.

B: Gently tilt your head to the left until your right ear points toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds, then look down toward your left knee. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on your other side.


2. BUTT AND OUTER THIGHS

Target: buttocks

A: Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. 

B: Keeping your back flat, slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in your buttocks. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise with your left ankle crossed over your right knee.


3. SEATED HAMSTRING AND CALF STRETCH

Target: back of legs

A: Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and hands on your hips. Keep your feet and knees hip distance apart. Extend your right leg, foot flexed and heel on the floor.

B: Keeping your back flat, slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg.


4. LOW BACK STRETCH

Target: lower back

A: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

B: Place your hands against the backs of your thighs, just below your knees. Hug your knees toward your chest, lifting your feet off the ground. Your shins should be about parallel to the floor. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Release.


5. SIDE STRETCH

Targets: sides of the abdomen

A: Sit in a chair with your back straight. Keep your feet and legs hip distance apart.

B: Reach your right arm overhead, then bend to the left. Avoid lifting your right hip off the chair. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on your left side.

Repetitions: 2


6. HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

Targets: front of hips and quadriceps

A: Stand in front of a chair with your right foot on the seat and your hands on the back. Keep your right knee in line with your ankle and make sure it doesn’t go beyond your toes. With your left leg straight out behind you, stand on the ball of your left foot. Your back should not be arched.

B: Gently glide your hips forward and toward the chair. Avoid arching your back. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the starting position, then repeat with your left leg.

Repetitions: 2


7. STANDING CALF STRETCH

Targets: calves

A: Stand with both feet on the bottom step of a staircase. Place one hand on an adjacent wall or handrail for support.

B: Move your right foot back so that the heel juts off the edge of the step. Slowly lower your right heel, keeping the leg straight but without locking your right knee. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat, then switch legs.