About Stretching Exercises
Stretching exercises are thought to give you more freedom of movement to do the things you need to do and the things you like to do. Stretching exercises alone will not improve your endurance or strength.
How Much, How Often?
Stretch after you do your regularly scheduled strength and endurance exercises. If you can't do endurance or strength exercises for some reason, and stretching exercises are the only kind you are able to do, do them at least 3 times a week, for at least 20 minutes each session. Note that stretching exercises, by themselves, don't improve endurance or strength. Do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times at each session. Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.
If you have had a hip replacement, check with the doctor who did your surgery before doing lower body exercises. If you have had a hip replacement, don't cross your legs or bend your hips past a 90-degree angle. Always warm up before stretching exercises (do them after endurance or strength exercises, for example; or, if you are doing only stretching exercises on a particular day, do a little bit of easy walking and arm-pumping first). Stretching your muscles before they are warmed up may result in injury. Stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If it does, you are stretching too far, and you need to reduce the stretch so that it doesn't hurt. Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal. Never "bounce" into a stretch; make slow, steady movements instead. Jerking into position can cause muscles to tighten, possibly resulting in injury. Avoid "locking" your joints into place when you straighten them during stretches. Your arms and legs should be straight when you stretch them, but don't lock them in a tightly straight position. You should always have a very small amount of bending in your joints while stretching.
You can progress in your stretching exercises; the way to know how to limit yourself is that stretching should never hurt. It may feel slightly uncomfortable, but not painful. Push yourself to stretch farther, but not so far that it hurts.
About Floor Exercises
If you are afraid to lie on the floor to exercise, because you think you won't be able to get back up, consider using the buddy system to do these. Adopt a buddy who will be able to provide assistance if you need it. Knowing the right way to get into a lying position on the floor and the right way to get back up also may be helpful to you. If you have had a hip replacement, check with your surgeon before using the following method. If you have osteoporosis, check with your doctor first.
To get into a lying position:
Note: You don't have to use your left side. You can use your right side, if you prefer.
To get up from a lying position:
Note: You don't have to use your left side; you can reverse positions, if you prefer.
Last Editorial Review: 8/23/1999 12:08:00 PM