Fitness: Exercise for a Healthy Heart (cont.)

Stretching exercises

While performing these exercises, make sure your movements are controlled and slow. Avoid quick, jerking movements. Stretch until a gentle pull is felt in your muscle. Hold each stretch without bouncing or causing pain for 20 to 30 seconds. Do not hold your breath during these exercises.

  • Hamstring stretch. While standing, place one foot on a stool or chair, while holding onto a wall or sturdy object (such as a table). Choose a comfortable height that allows you to keep your knee straight. Slowly lean forward, keeping your back straight, and reach one hand down your shin until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Relax, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Quadriceps stretch. Stand facing a wall, placing one hand against the wall for support. Bend one knee, grasping your ankle and pulling your leg behind you. Try to touch your heel to your buttocks. Relax, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Calf stretch against wall. Stand facing the wall with your hands against the wall for support. Put one foot about 12 inches in front of the other. Bend your front knee, and keep your other leg straight. (Keep both heels on the floor.) To prevent injury, do not let your bent knee extend forward past your toes. Slowly lean forward until you feel a mild stretch in the calf of your straight leg. Relax, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Calf stretch on stairs. Stand on the stairs, holding a handrail or placing your hand on the wall for support. Place the ball of one foot on the stair. Lower your heel down toward the step below, until you feel a gentle pull in your calf. Switch legs.
  • Knee pull. Lie on your back and flatten the small of your back onto the floor. Bend one knee and pull your bent leg toward your chest, until you feel a pull in your lower back. Try to keep your head on the floor, but do not strain yourself. Gently lower your leg, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Groin stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Slowly lower your knees to the floor until you feel a gentle pull in your groin and inner thighs.
  • Overhead arm pull. Lock your fingers together, with your palms facing out (or hold onto a towel so your hands are shoulder width apart). Extend your arms out in front of you with your elbows straight. Lift your arms to shoulder height. Raise your arms overhead until you feel a gentle pull in your chest or shoulders.
  • Behind back arm raise. At waist level, put your hands behind your back, locking your fingers together (or hold onto a towel so your hands are shoulder width apart). Straighten your elbows and raise your arms upward until you feel a gentle pull in your chest or shoulders.
  • Side bends. Stand straight with your legs about shoulder width apart. Reach over your head with one arm, elbow bent, sliding the opposite arm and hand down your thigh, toward your knee. Hold the stretch until you feel a gentle pull at your side. Repeat with other side.
  • Double shoulder circles. While bending your elbows, put your fingertips on your shoulders. Rotate your shoulders and elbows clockwise, then counter clockwise, as if drawing large circles with both elbows. Repeat in each direction.
  • Leg circles. Hold onto a chair or other sturdy object for balance. Lift one leg straight behind you, keeping both knees straight. Rotate your leg clockwise, then counter clockwise, as if drawing small circles with your foot. (You should feel the movement at your hip joint). Repeat in each direction, with each leg.

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